To that end, TGH President and CEO John Couris and Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced a groundbreaking community health and wellness initiative Tuesday.
TampaWell Activated by Tampa General Hospital is a multi-year effort in partnership with the city of Tampa that will focus on engaging the community in preventative health efforts.
The partnership will focus on three initiatives in 2022 – routinely prescribing exercise and healthy food as medicine, enhancing fitness trails and parks in the downtown and adjacent areas, and developing a community garden and food pantry in East Tampa.
The Tampa General Hospital Foundation is contributing $1 million to help launch TampaWell and support its first year of operation.
“More than ever before, we have a great opportunity to create a unique and holistic wellness ecosystem that not only improves the health of our residents and the health of our economy, but also differentiates Tampa as the most attractive wellness destination nationwide,” Couris said during a news conference at TGH Family Care Center Healthpark on North 30th Street.
“TampaWell will be the first of its kind in the nation, a wellness revolution and community movement that will improve the community’s health and resilience,” he said.
Castor, who joined Couris at the announcement, said TampaWell will benefit the city in two ways. Not only will it focus on preventative health and support the city’s most at-risk residents by helping to address underlying social factors that impact their health, but it will also drive health and wellness tourism to the city.
“The Tampa region is already top of mind throughout the sports world thanks to the successes of our Buccaneers, Lightning and Rays, and now we’re aiming to be a model for the nation in preventative health and wellness,” Castor said.
The TampaWell initiative is modeled after the Wellness Valley, an internationally acclaimed effort in the Romagna region of Italy that describes itself as “the first worldwide district of wellness and quality of life” in existence. Wellness Valley draws on some 250 public and private stakeholders in the region to support its mission of focusing on preventative health rather than the treatment of chronic disease.
Likewise, TampaWell is drawing upon the input and participation of dozens of organizations in Tampa, including community groups, businesses, sports teams, social services agencies and health care providers, and will be actively encouraging additional entities to join in the effort.
While Tampa already has a good foundation for promoting wellness — including a young and growing workforce, a good economic environment and a solid infrastructure of fitness facilities and programs — it also has some unhealthy habits.
Roughly 29 percent of adults in the city are sedentary, about 26.7 percent are obese and 36.3 percent have hypertension. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in adults, and for people of most racial and ethnic groups in the U.S.
TampaWell has its sights on improving those statistics.
With the view that “exercise is medicine,” TampaWell will encourage physicians and other providers to systematically include physical activity when designing treatment plans. Along with healthy eating, physical activity promotes optimal health and is integral to the prevention and management of chronic conditions.
Meanwhile, the goal is to make enhancements throughout the city, including installing mile markers and scannable codes where walkers, joggers and bikers can download trail maps, fitness tips and track their progress.
Future plans for TampaWell include creating a “Health Trail” that will connect TGH’s properties on Davis Islands and downtown Tampa to Bayshore Boulevard, the Cass and Jackson Street Cycletracks and the Selmon/Meridian Greenways.
The third major focus of TampaWell this year will be the construction of a community garden at TGH Family Care Center in East Tampa. The community garden will provide a space to learn about nutrition and healthy eating habits, along with teaching the community to grow and prepare their own nutritious fruits and vegetables.
The community garden will be connected with a food pantry in partnership with Feeding Tampa Bay. TampaWell will provide and coordinate healthy eating and cooking classes in conjunction with community partners.
Connecting as many residents as possible to the program is a key to its success. TampaWell will also launch an app to ensure everyone in the city has access to the free program. The app will track individual and community-wide progress and data and offer users information on health prevention programs, showcase wellness tourism opportunities and local hotels, include wellness event listings and share nutrition tips.
“TGH is dedicated to empowering communities and transforming lives,” Couris said. “TampaWell is the embodiment of that dedication. We’re thrilled to be working with the city of Tampa on this effort and committed to building additional community partnerships that extend the wellness revolution to every neighborhood of our city.”
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