Miami Dade County is a high crime community in Florida. It is highly affected by drugs, low income, unemployment and an astonishingly high rate of gang violence. According to Miami’s Healthy Communities Institute, over the past five years Miami Dade County has experienced an increase in infant mortality rates, deaths related to diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer and prostate cancer. Further, there has been an increase in new sexually transmitted disease cases, childhood and teenage obesity, as well as drug related health issues. The above health and social issues are major problems for the Miami Dade area. It is evident that the majority of these health related issues are a direct result of the social problems, like the high unemployment rate and lack of risk awareness of the public.
Miami Dade County is the most populated county located in southeastern Florida. Not only is it the most populated county in Florida, but Miami Dade is the seventh most densely populated county in all of the United States. This high volume of people makes Miami Dade a hotbed of crime, disease, corruption and more. As of 2011, 51.2% of Miami-Dade residents were foreign born and 63.77% of the population spoke only Spanish at home. The median income for a household in the county was $35,966, and the median income for a family was $40,260. Males had a median income of $30,120 versus $24,686 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,497 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2012).
A heavily packed county with a high demand for jobs, Miami Dade was hit hard when the economy turned a few years back and unemployment skyrocketed. Drug use, which was already a problem in the community, became out of control and those who had been living paycheck to paycheck now found themselves living on the streets. In 2005, when the economy was at its lowest, Miami Dade experienced their highest level of homeless people ever recorded, 995 (Miami Coalition for the Homeless, 2010). A non-profit organization, the Miami Coalition for the Homeless has since
helped that number go down by sheltering homeless Miami citizens, but while all they do is great, it is a band-aid for the problem, not a solution.
Although the homeless rates have declined in Miami Dade County, the community has far from bounced back from the economic fall of 2005, and the effects of the financial disaster aren’t just showing in the pocket books of the citizens of the community, it is also showing in their health. People who make less money or who are forced to work long hours in order to make ends meet often make choices that compromise their health.
Fast food, drugs, alcohol, stress, soda, caffeine, cigarettes and lack of exercise are all things that can be associated with a busy, hectic lifestyle and they are also all things that can negatively impact one’s health. When someone is working 80 hours a week in order to put food on the table, it can be very difficult to find time to go to the gym. A single mother with kids who is trying to pay the bills may know that fast food is not the healthiest choice but may have no other option. In Miami Dade people have felt the need to sacrifice their health in order to survive in another area of their lives. This is a serious problem.
Losing a job shouldn’t mean losing the ability to stay healthy or keep one’s family healthy, but unfortunately in America those two seem to go hand in hand, and in Miami Dade County, poor health is out of control, obesity is an epidemic and contractible illnesses run rampant. The city is a mess due to a lack of education on the public sector’s side as well as on the community’s side. Not only does the government owe the people a better understanding of what they are putting in their body, the harm they are doing to themselves by overworking themselves, not exercising and not dealing with stress, but the community needs to take responsibility for their own actions and their own choices.
If the facts show that Miami Dade is a struggling community economically, they should be taught how to deal and cope with that type of financial situation in a way that does not compromise their health. There are healthy alternatives out there. Yes, the Miami Coalition for the Homeless does wonders to get the people off the streets, but what then? The citizens need to be educated on how to bounce back from an economic downturn and not let it impact their health.
One bright spot for the citizens of Miami Dade County regarding their health care is the Miami Dade Action Network. “The Miami-Dade Health Action Network is a multi-sector cross collaborative, which includes over 2,000 interested Community Partners, guided by a Steering Committee, serving as the neutral convening platform to address issues regarding the promotion of an integrated safety-net system and access to health care in Miami-Dade County.” (Miami Health Communities Institute, 2013) Although Miami Dade has made some efforts to help the growing number of sick and suffering citizens in the community, the health of the people in Miami Dade County continues to be an issue. Finding new and innovative ways to teach and educate the public, as well as treat and help the lower income families is a big challenge, but will greatly benefit not only Miami Dade, but much of the United States.
Miami Coalition for the Homeless. (2010) Miami Homeless Statistics. Miami Coalition for the Homeless. Retrieved from http://www.miamihomeless.org/docs/Homeless_Census_Results_Jan262010.pdf
Miami Health Communities Institute (2013) Miami Matters: Measuring What Matters in Miami-Dade County. Retrieved from http://www.healthcouncil.org/publications/Miami_Matters_health_report_card_2010.pdf
US Census Bureau (2012) Miami-Dade County QuickFacts from the US Census Bureau. Retrieved from http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/12/12086.html
The Healthy Communities Institute (2013) Miami Matters: Indicator Trackers. Health Needs Assessment Household Survey Report. Retrieved from http://www.healthcouncil.org/documents/2013_PRC_Miami_ Dade_County_CHNA_Report_Reduced.pdf