UF Health Jacksonville kicks off new initiative to boost community health

From left to right: UF Health Jacksonville CEO Dr. Leon L. Haley, Jr., Florida senator Aaron Bean, vice president of community engagement and chief diversity officer Ann-Marie Knight, and medical director of the UF Health Total Care Clinic – Jacksonville Dr. Ross Jones cut the ribbon on the Social Services Hub.
The Food Pharmacy will offer UF Health Total Care Clinic – Jacksonville patients access to foods tailored to their health needs.

Urban Health Alliance will focus on most vulnerable residents

UF Health Jacksonville unveiled a new community-focused initiative today, the Urban Health Alliance’s Food Pharmacy and Social Services Hub. The breakthrough project focuses on improving the health and well-being of the community’s most vulnerable patients by focusing on aspects of the social determinants of health.

The project will be based out of UF Health Jacksonville’s Total Care Clinic, where the Social Services Hub will facilitate one-on-one support for factors affecting economic stability, education access and aspects of the physical environment. The Food Pharmacy is a prescriptive nutrition model where patients with chronic diseases and food insecurity will be provided access to fresh foods to help improve health through proper nutrition.

The Urban Health Alliance was created in part to help address the inequality of health outcomes in Northeast Florida. Of the 10 largest Florida counties (by population), Duval County ranks last in outcomes. Regardless of data point, Duval consistently shows a wide range of health disparities among the most vulnerable communities. For example, when assessing life expectancy, there is as much as a 17-year gap between some of our communities.

“What we’ve discovered is, people living in or around the urban core do much worse when it comes to outcomes and life expectancy, and much of that can be attributed to factors like preventive health care and nutrition,” said Ross Jones, M.D., MPH, FAAFP, medical director of the Urban Health Alliance. “The question is, how can we help them move past those barriers? If we can help, it improves not only the patient but the entire community.”

This phase of the UHA initiative includes a new food pharmacy, which will use a nutrition care model provided by dietitians. They’ll perform one-on-one counseling for patients who are food insecure or have underlying health issues such as diabetes or hypertension. Patients will have biweekly access to fresh foods and vegetables.

It also includes the creation of a social services hub, which will serve as a liaison between the clinical team and a wide range of social service agencies, including job services, education, housing assistance and transportation. Collaborating with these area agencies aims to help improve societal factors that directly and indirectly impact health.

“The scope of need across our community is vastly different neighborhood to neighborhood. We must tackle the challenges at the most finite level to make a difference, and this initiative will do just that,” said Ann-Marie Knight, MHA, FACHE, vice president of community engagement for UF Health Jacksonville. “The common problem that transcends most of the challenges is access and, at times, the support and encouragement to navigate resources. Northeast Florida has a wealth of social service agencies supporting similar efforts. Bringing agencies together in a systematic and holistic manner is key. The individual success stories that will come from this effort will be fantastic. The collective impact will help us in our journey to be a healthier, more vibrant community with a higher quality of life for everyone.”

Featured Faculty

Ross E. Jones, MD

Ross E. Jones, MD

Associate Professor
Medical Director, UF Health and Family Medicine - Elizabeth G. Means Center; Medical Director, Total Care Group; Medical Director, Community Health