JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Duval Medical Society is trying to cut down on Jacksonville’s obesity rate, a goal that will take years of education and promotion considering the city’s unique challenges for staying active.
This week the federal government released a new report which finds 40 percent of US women and 35 percent of US men are obese.
Duval County has an adult obesity rate of 30 percent, according to health rankings from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Dr. Sunil Joshi, President of the Duval Medical Society, says while it appears Jacksonville is on par with the national average, it’s higher than the Florida average of 25 percent.
“We’re an outlier here in Florida,” Joshi says.
He says Duval has struggled with obesity over the last few years, and there are some theories as to why.
Since Jacksonville is a commuter city, many people live far from work. Joshi says a recent study found, on average, most working people in Duval spend over 30 minutes in the car a day.
“That in itself can lead to obesity,” Joshi says. “Because by the time you get home or by the time you get to work, you’re not ready to workout. You just want to eat dinner and chill.”
Another theory is that obesity has gone up in women over the last 30 years because more are in the workplace.
“And you may be eating poorly at your desk,” Joshi says. “The tendency is, of course, to put on more weight. Sitting in an office, then in your car and not walking or being physically active increases the risk of obesity.”
Joshi says other regions have good excuses. For example, the northeast and Midwest experience cold winters.
“We don’t have that excuse here in Northeast Florida,” Joshi says. “Yes, it’s hot during certain times of the year, but I think people make that as an excuse. After seven o’clock at night it’s not really all that hot.”
He says the same Robert Wood Johnson Foundation report found that 93 percent of the Northeast Florida population lives within one mile of an exercise utensil: gym, swimming pool, track, YMCA, sidewalk, beach or Riverwalk.
“People don’t look at a sidewalk and think, ‘that can help me lose weight’,” Joshi says. "But it can."
One of the ways the Duval Medical Society wants to make the community more active is through a weight loss challenge.
"There are opportunities here in Northeast Florida for people to exercise,” Joshi says. “We just need to promote that and educate people so they understand that that is available to them."
About two months ago the Medical Society teamed up with Mayor Lenny Curry to launch the “904 Mission One Million,” which is a challenge for Jacksonville residents to collectively lose one million pounds.
According to the website, Jacksonville has pledged over ten thousand pounds and lost close to 500.
Joshi says they want people to track their weight loss and challenge each other. Citing CSX and Florida Blue as examples, Joshi hopes major companies challenge each other, encouraging employees to focus more on physical activity and eating appropriately.
CLICK HERE to read more about the “904 Mission One Million” and how to sign up.