Updated 5 yearss ago
A patient is examined at a Shands clinic located in the former Gateway Mall.
Among Duval County's six health zones, zone 1 in Jacksonville's northwest has both the fewest healthcare services and the greatest medical needs. It's the poorest — residents' income averages $21,816 compared with $41,118 countywide. It has the highest mortality rates from heart disease, cancer, diabetes and AIDS in the county; the highest teen birth rate; the highest percentage of low-birth-weight babies; the highest rate of asthma-related ER visits; and the highest obesity rates.
The non-profit organization War on Poverty-Florida plans to bring more health services to area residents by drawing clinics into the community under one roof — the 1950s-era Gateway Mall, Jacksonville's first. War on Poverty is repurposing Gateway's former shopping bays into the Elizabeth G. Means Medical Pavilion, a 100,000-sq.-ft. system of clinics, along with an indoor walking park.
Means, who died in January at age 74, was a Jacksonville native who began her career as a licensed practical nurse at Shands Jacksonville in 1966 and worked her way up to vice president of community relations by 1994. She devoted much of her life to bringing healthcare to poor people in their communities — from setting up cancer screenings at beauty salons to convincing Shands to open clinics in neighborhoods.
Shands is the first healthcare tenant in Gateway. War on Poverty Executive Director Karen Landry says her goal is to get all five of Jacksonville's hospitals involved in some way. That level of collaboration also could result in economic development and job growth for the inner-city along with hands-on experience for medical residents to practice in the urban core, Landry says.
War on Poverty is now negotiating with a second and third tenant, including a pharmacy in partnership with the FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.
Other pressing needs include a pediatric clinic, a dental clinic, urgent care, mental health and an array of other social services. The organization launches a $1.5-million capital campaign this month to continue interior renovations.