ST. PETERSBURG — In a spirited celebration that included music, line dancing and even hula hooping, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin officially jump started the city’s new Healthy St. Pete initiative May 1 in front of City Hall at 174 Fifth St. N.
The initiative will have four main areas of impact: LIVE Healthy St. Pete, EAT Healthy St. Pete, PLAY Healthy St. Pete and SHOP Healthy St. Pete. It is a “robust” program, Tomalin said, that will continue to grow over time and includes outreach, partnerships, community fitness challenges, a cooking show and even an app to track fitness progress.
“Before I had the privilege of serving our city and our mayor, I was fortunate to serve Bayfront Health System—now Bayfront Health St. Petersburg—for more than 15 years. And in that role, I had a chance to see firsthand the healthcare issues that plague our community,” the deputy mayor said. “And it really impacts all of our lives.”
Her doctoral studies focused on health law and policy, and among many things she learned that coverage does not necessarily equal access—but awareness, engagement and advocacy do, Tomalin explained.
“So we introduce Healthy St. Pete!” she announced. It’s a community engagement and empowerment initiative that’s designed to help us all live, play, eat and shop healthier.”
Tomalin noted that according to a county health ranking system, Pinellas placed 33rd out of the 67 Florida counties.
“Right in the middle of the pack,” she said. “Which may not necessarily be bad, but it certainly isn’t St. Pete. We don’t do middle of the pack. We certainly don’t settle there. We lead! We set the standard!”
She noted that even chronic illnesses and conditions can be mitigated or even prevented with the right doses of awareness, education and engagement. The launching of this initiative is a culture shift, Tomalin affirmed, as the community will move from a historic approach of thinking about our health when it is leaving to a more proactive approach that prevents illness and perpetuates a constant state of well being.
“As we become a healthier city,” she said, “we’ll see a positive impact on our economy, on our efforts to eradicate poverty, on education, productivity and we’ll see an undeniable impact on quality of life.”
Acting emcee of the festivities was Norton Robert, Recreation Supervisor with the City of St. Petersburg.
“Healthy St. Pete is founded upon the principles of the World Health Organization,” he said, “so this is a lot bigger than just us! We’re one of the cities making the initiative to really be one of the healthiest cities in not only Florida but in America.”
Mayor Rick Kriseman, who was on hand to laud the efforts of Tomalin in this program, explained that the Healthy St. Pete initiative is really part of a much broader focus to improve the lives of the residents of this city.
“We can’t truly be a great city and really be that city of opportunity if we’re not a healthy city, if were not an active city,” the mayor said. “And we know that so many of our residents can’t prosper if they’re in poor health. You can’t go to work if you’re sick.”
The mayor told the assembled crowd that Tomalin, with her background and her energy, is the right person to lead us in moving forward with this initiative.
“This is a person who has put their heart, their soul, their passion, their energy and their caring into this city. And this initiative really is a demonstration of that because she cares about everyone,” he attested. “I couldn’t be more proud of her than I am today!”
Some of the participating partners at the event included the American Heart Association, Moffitt Cancer Center, Committee to Advocate for Persons with Impairments, along with free blood pressure screenings by St. Petersburg Fire and Rescue and a healthy snack cooking demo by students from Lakewood High School Health squad as part of All Children’s Hospital’s Fit4AllKids program.
“Together we’ll shift our culture and come to be known as one of our nation’s healthiest cities and it starts with a single step,” Tomalin said as she and the mayor led the crowd on a walk through downtown.