Highlight on Florida: ‘Year in Review’ Celebrates 125 Years of Public Health

The Florida Department of Health (DOH) released its 2013-2014 Year in Review, trumpeting the agency’s successes for July 1, 2013 through June 30, 2014, and celebrating 125 years of public health in Florida. Over the year, Florida improved in citizens with a healthy weight compared to other states, jumping into the top 15 healthiest weight states in the country. The state attributed this to its Healthiest Weight Florida program, a partnership between the DOH, other state agencies, local governments, businesses, schools, non-governmental organizations, non-profits, and hospitals to increase the number of Floridians with a healthy weight. The report discussed some of the DOH’s other programs, and celebrated local efforts at health throughout the state.

Anniversary

In 1899, the Florida legislature created the State Board of Health in response to yellow fever epidemics plaguing the state. Due to the large number of ports in the state, Florida experienced many public health crises that the Board of Health worked to fight. To celebrate the anniversary of the DOH’s predecessor, the DOH released an online publication called Florida Public Health Heroes, which shines a spotlight on historic and present Floridians who have served the state’s public health community, showing one hero for each of Florida’s 67 counties.

Healthiest Weight Florida

According to the DOH, weight is the “#1 public health threat in Florida.” The Healthiest Weight Florida initiative was launched in 2013 to avoid the estimated $34 billion in health care costs associated with preventable chronic disease. The program has five priority strategies in its fight against unhealthy body weight:

  • Activity – Increase opportunities for physical activity.
  • Nutrition – Make healthy food available everywhere.
  • Worksite Wellness – Add effective health-focused workplace programs, policies, and environments.
  • Schools – Strengthen schools as the heart of health for healthy weight promotion.
  • Messaging – Market what matters for a healthy life.

The report listed a number of “Healthiest Weight Highlights”–programs and policies championed by municipal and county governments across the state. Examples include restaurants in Escambia offering low-fat and low-sodium entrees or substitutions for no additional cost, the development of walking trails and community gardens in Jefferson, and St. Johns’ “Healthy in a Hurry” newsletter that includes information about local fitness opportunities as well as healthy recipes. The program’s goal is to bend the state’s weight curve by 5 percent by 2017.

Other Initiatives

The Students Working Against Tobacco (SWAT) program began its “We Are Not Replacements” campaign, empowering youth to speak out against tobacco and refuse to be a new customer to replace one of the 1,200 individuals who die each day from tobacco-related diseases. The DOH worked with other entities to conduct emergency preparedness training throughout the state. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program implemented statewide Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) services, and the WaterproofFL initiative promoted levels of protection for keeping children safe around swimming pools.