Mayor Lenny Curry runs almost daily to keep in shape, but it was a walk Thursday that symbolized a desire for all of Jacksonville to be healthier.
He wore a suit, not workout clothes, when he and hundreds of schoolchildren made the 20-minute or so stroll from the Prime Osborn Convention Center to Hemming Park.
They had a special guest: U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, who took part in an earlier breakfast and town hall meeting on health issues.
It was part of the buildup to Curry announcing the Journey to One initiative, which will use existing programs and partnerships to improve the city’s quality health outcomes — an area where Jacksonville is lacking.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation recently ranked Duval County 48th of Florida’s 67 counties in that area.
Health-related factors include smoking and obesity rates, while rates of children in poverty and violent crime numbers weigh down social and economic categories.
“It’s unacceptable,” said Curry, who added his goal is to be No. 1 — a spot held by St. Johns County.
The Journey to One initiative won’t be bolstered by city funding, but instead will rely on residents maximizing existing efforts.
Those include the Jacksonville Journey and city parks, which will be used to host monthly “mayorthons” to promote healthy living and the city’s natural assets.
As part of the “mayorthon” effort, Curry is encouraging everyone to walk or run 26.2 miles a month.
The multipronged initiative also will address health disparities in ways like the Farm to Faith initiative that brings fresh produce to churches in some of Jacksonville’s most isolated areas, mostly in Health Zone 1.
It’s an area predominantly in Northwest Jacksonville that for some time has been a “food desert” — an area where it’s not easy for residents to buy fresh produce.
Tackling blight and continuing to address public safety also are steps that can lead to better health outcomes, Curry said.
Other health-related initiatives were announced Thursday.
Mission One Million is a campaign by the Mayor’s Council on Fitness and Well-being and the Duval County Medical Society Foundation that aims to have area residents shed 1 million pounds.
And the Florida Department of Health in Duval County promoted its 5-2-1-0 campaign that calls for five daily servings of fruits and vegetables, two hours or less of “recreational screen time,” one hour or more of physical activity and no sugary drinks.
Murthy’s role as America’s top doctor is to share information to help people lead healthy lives. That’s meant promoting ways to combat issues plaguing the country like heart disease, diabetes and obesity.
His stop in Jacksonville was to see firsthand the leadership efforts that will go toward the health-conscious initiatives.
“I think Jacksonville can serve as an example to the rest of the country,” he said.
But it will take commitment and a community effort, like the efforts of local students who visited him in October.
The I’m A Star Foundation student leadership program visited Murthy in October to share results on area childhood obesity. What stood out, Murthy said, was the students’ willingness to help others and take responsibility.
Many of the program’s children were in Hemming Park on Thursday afternoon, munching on bananas, oranges, apples and other healthy alternatives after the walk with Curry and Murthy.
Little changes and efforts like that are the goal, a way to improve Jacksonville’s health.