“Start small and start now.”  A great piece of advice as we wrap up the 2022 Influential Women in Wellness series.  We’re excited to introduce you to Jennifer Harris, Director of Communications & Public Information (PIO), Florida Department of Health – St. Lucie.  Award winning, change creating, and inspiring – Jennifer has made an incredible impact on her community and shares some of that story with us here.

About the Healthy St. Lucie Coalition:

In June of 2015 the Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County met with community partners to develop a health improvement plan.  This meeting launched the Healthy St. Lucie Coalition with a mission to promote health where we live, learn, work, and play. Today, over 30 agencies continue to work together to build a culture of health in our community.

About Jennifer 

Jennifer is an experienced public health professional, with a career spanning over 22 years. In 1999 she began working in tobacco control for the State of Florida, where she spent nearly 18 years implementing community engagement activities at the county, regional, and statewide levels.  She developed a statewide program model for educating worksites about the benefits of tobacco free campus policies and how investing in tobacco cessation services was good their employee’s health and their bottom line.

In 2017, Jennifer accepted a position as the Director of Health Promotion with the Florida Department of Health in St. Lucie County. In this role she facilitated both agency and community health promotion activities to improve wellbeing by increasing breastfeeding rates, encouraging healthy eating, increasing physical activity, and reducing chronic disease burden.  To address sedentary rates, she worked with the Healthy St. Lucie Coalition to launch a community-wide physical activity campaign, the Billion Steps Challenge, to encourage adults in St. Lucie County to move more.  In 2019 the Billion Steps Challenge received three awards from the Florida Public Relations Association for public/community relations, and a Florida TaxWatch Productivity Award.

Jennifer moved into her most recent position, Director of Communications and Public Information, in July of 2021.  In this role, she manages media/public relations, develops data-driven communication plans, and markets agency wellness initiatives.

What is your WHY?

Throughout the years, I’ve heard people describe a preventable health issue they were facing.  Many concluded that since that health issue ran in the family, there was nothing they could do about it.  I was so inspired learning about a population-based study of 2,872 Danish twin pairs born 1870-1900 that showed only about 25 percent of our longevity is genetic, with 75 percent due to other causes and lifestyle.  This study motivates me every day to engage individuals and organizations around health and empower them to make changes that support not only living longer but living longer in good health.  

Do you think you are uniquely positioned to drive wellness/wellbeing? 

There are tons of great men in the wellness space. But, as a female, I still think some of the work/life balance struggles we experience might provide a unique perspective for some clients. There was this perfume commercial when I was growing up about the 24-hour woman. The commercial touted that it was possible for me to wake up in the morning, do laundry, make breakfast for my kids, get them off to school, work 9-5, cook my family dinner, and never let my husband forget he was a man.  Oh, and by the way, that it was possible for me to not only look good while performing these tasks, but smell nice, too.  So, while we have come a long way, I still think there are real and perceived expectations that perpetuate this illusion of women being able to have it all.

What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?

You have a lot of power in shaping your present and future wellbeing.   It is not as complicated as you think.  Start small and start now.

Is there a woman who has been influential in your life/path? 

So many women have been influential in my life, from fictional characters in TV and film, to real-life women hitting the pavement every day.  I grew up in a time when a lot of TV, film, and commercials were telling stories of independent female characters starting careers and the challenges they faced. As a young girl, I did not truly understand the social context of these stories; I just saw women facing challenge after challenge, but most importantly, being strategic and not giving up.  There have been times when I faced my own challenges and thought,  “Shew, if Mary Tyler Moore could do it, so can I.” 

But women in my family, some I have never met, have been the most inspiring.  They kept their families together during tough times, earned extra money during the depression by fixing extra meals for factory workers, and made sure their children moved up each generation.  They all seemed to have this ability to see the possible through the chaos of their own generation and muster up determination to overcome any barrier needed to get there.   



Meet Walker Tracker’s 2022 Influential Women In Wellness

Sandra Barrat: Wellness Coach, Tempe Elementary School District #3

Diane Brand: Health Engagement Senior Analyst, Cigna

Rachel Drushella: Senior School Employee Wellness Program Officer, OEA Choice Trust

Jennifer J. Harris: Director of Communications & Public Information (PIO), Florida Department of Health – St. Lucie

Giselle Ginsberg MS, RD: Director of Business Development, Wellness Concepts Inc.

Cassie Buckroyd: Sr. Manager, Total Rewards Experience, Columbia Sportswear

Sita Wolford (Amin): Senior Engagement Consultant, Cigna

Lindsey Bramwell: Health Promotion & Wellness Supervisor, Moda Health

Maddison Bezdicek: Health Strategies Practice Leader, Hylant

Laura Putnam: CEO of Motion Infusion

Chase Sterling: Managing Consultant at The Partners Group & Founder of the Wellbeing Think Tank


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