JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — When it comes to zip code versus genetic code, how big of an impact does your zip code have on how long you live?
The leaders of several Jacksonville organizations are working to make that age older amid data showing disparities in neighborhoods only miles apart.
"The Ortega community life expectancy is 80 years old," said Darnell Smith, Florida Blue's North Florida market president. "Durkeeville is 67 years old. Thirteen-year difference, only eight miles apart."
CDC data shows people living in parts of north and west Jacksonville aren't living as long as those in parts of south and far east Duval County. Their lives are about 10 years shorter.
"What we believe is that place matters," said David Garfunkel, president of LIFT JAX.
Garfunkel is talking about what are called social determinants of health, which are conditions where you live that impact your health. An example is access to a grocery store.
"I think that the Harvey's downtown might be the closest one, which is a couple of miles away," said Garfunkel as he stood with First Coast News on the east side.
By about this time next year, the area he's standing in will be inside a grocery store. LIFT Jax is bringing the historic Deb's Store back to life and adding on to it.
"An older gentleman came riding by on a bicycle," Garfunkel said. "He had groceries on either side of it from Harvey's a couple miles away. And he was biking and it was hot, and he was sweating with all these groceries and he literally did a U-turn, came back, said, 'I used to shop here as a kid. You need to open this right away.'"
Garfunkel says the east side zip code with Deb's Store is one of the places the Blue Zones project will focus on. It's a collaborative initiative multiple organizations with different specialties are taking on, aiming to make Duval County a healthier place to live. Blue Zones will also focus on the north and west sides.
"I grew up on the north side," said Whitney Meyer, Jacksonville Jaguars senior vice president and chief community impact officer. "I understand personally, I see the differences when you live in one zip code versus another zip code. And so for me, this is personal."
First Coast News met Meyer at the launch of the Blue Zones project at the beginning of June.
"When I think about my current neighborhood, neighborhoods that I grew up in, that my family still currently lives in, I think, 'How do they actually activate and use these parks?'" Meyer said. "How do they know which centers and resources are available to them? And how do they activate on the policy changes that need to happen?"
It will take some time, but their plan is to put a healthy place to live on the map for everyone. The Blue Zones project plans to take more than five years to get Jacksonville on the right foot to having healthier neighborhoods.