Helen Jackson Pic
Helen Jackson
UNF Degree: M.P.A. 1992
Employment: Director, Division of Community Nutrition Services, Duval County Health Department

UNF inspires Jackson to help others

 Helen Jackson has her finger on the pulse of Duval County's health.

 

Jackson is the director of the Division of Community Nutrition Services at the Duval County Health Department. She is responsible for overseeing such programs as the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, the Breastfeeding Education and Support Program, the Obesity Prevention Program and Medical Nutrition Therapy.

 

That all translates into helping thousands of Duval County residents. In the WIC program alone, Jackson has a $20 million budget and assists more than 19,500 families. The goal is ambitious — to improve the lifelong health and nutrition of pregnant women, new mothers, infants and children by providing nutrition education, supplemental food and health as well as social service referrals. She loves the challenge.

 

Jackson can trace her community service career to UNF where she earned a master's in Public Administration in 1992. She credits one faculty member in particular, Dr. Henry Thomas, with motivating her to pursue the degree. “Dr. Thomas was so dedicated to the course and helped me see the importance of being part of social change. He greatly impacted my life.”

 

A native of Detroit, Jackson received her bachelor's degree from Wayne State University and a master's in nutrition from Eastern Michigan University then moved to Florida in 1989 with her husband, Joseph, who is a native of Jacksonville Beach. With a background as a hospital registered dietician, Jackson was a natural fit for the WIC program. During her internship at the Detroit Health Department she was responsible for increasing participation from 7,000 to 30,000 individuals, one of the accomplishments of which she is the proudest.

 

She also worked at the Northeast Florida State Hospital in Macclenny where she became interested in administration issues affecting the 500–bed hospital. She was going to UNF at the time and was intrigued by the real–world applications of her course work. “With the UNF courses, I began looking at practices in the hospital and working with various departments to resolve problems.” She specifically recalls the study groups at UNF which allowed her to exchange ideas with other students. “We were able to keep each other motivated to finish.”

Jackson's UNF education also influenced her to become involved in a number of civic groups. For example, she was president of the Hubbard House Board of Directors at a time when they successfully raised $4.6 million to build a new facility. “I feel very good that I was able to help more women get into a safe environment.”

 

Other community organizations benefiting from her involvement include the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society and the Jacksonville Community Council Inc. (JCCI) where she is serving as chair this year. “I'm excited about the opportunity to talk about common issues affecting everyone and building a community consensus.”

Jackson is also involved with the Women of Color Cultural Foundation, a 501C3 group she helped establish in 1999. The organization addresses inequalities in health, education and economic development for women of color. Jackson helps with the annual gala which raises money for scholarships. More than $100,000 in scholarships has been awarded to students, including several attending UNF.

When she isn't involved in work or community activities, Jackson enjoys walking and has even completed a walking marathon. “The last mile I actually ran because I couldn't believe I saw the finish line.”

The key to a successful life, she maintains, is balancing work and play. Helen Jackson appears to have done an outstanding job of achieving that balance.