Community Context

Tampa is the county seat of Hillsborough County and is just one of many cities that make up the metropolitan area known as “Tampa Bay,” which boasts a population of approximately 3.1 million. With Tampa’s prime position as a port city, it has historically been a center for regional trade and distribution. Tampa’s largest industries include healthcare and social assistance, followed by professional scientific and technical services, and retail trade.

While Florida has had a Republican governor since 2007, the City of Tampa has remained a Democratic stronghold for decades. Lack of access to healthcare coverage and services has been an issue for Tampa residents as Florida has not adopted Medicaid expansion, although conversations around whether to do so have been reignited. While the lack of a regional transportation system remains a barrier to health and well-being, Mayor Castor has carried on efforts to transform both the walkability and transportation infrastructure of the city, which will provide access to job opportunities, a sense of safety, and opportunities to be healthy. Efforts to address housing segregation and provide affordable housing have slowed and, as a result of the pandemic, the number of people at risk for eviction is increasing. Mental and behavioral health concerns have also risen dramatically in the past year, driven in large part by social isolation and COVID-19-related concerns around health, economic security, and housing stability.

Tampa’s Journey to Promote Health, Well-Being, and Equity

Five years into the Sentinel Communities Surveillance Project, Tampa’s capacity to advance health, well-being, and equity for community members is grounded in its many healthcare organizations and nonprofit organizations.

The breadth and depth of local nonprofits has evolved to address health needs through a more holistic lens. Tampa and Hillsborough County have a number of initiatives including a plan for building resilience at the individual, neighborhood, and city level, initiatives to tackle some of the city’s biggest transportation challenges, and major redevelopment efforts of the downtown and waterfront areas that have been designed to meet a wide range of wellness standards. Over the past five years, there has been a shift from more siloed and topic-specific efforts towards a greater appreciation of the value of partnerships, upstream drivers of health and well-being, and comprehensive services, which are becoming more prevalent in the health narrative. Health equity has also received heightened attention with shifts occurring in how health equity is conceptualized, discussed, and prioritized.

Lessons Learned: Where is Tampa Five Years Later?

Over the past five years, Tampa’s commitment to health, well-being, and equity has evolved. Despite progress, not all residents have been equally impacted and there remains concern that some neighborhoods, particularly those that are home to minority populations, are receiving far less investment. The state of Florida has not yet expanded Medicaid and strong accusations have been leveraged against the governor for inequitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccinations that prioritized wealthier residents. Fueled by these concerns, the city will undergo an independent racial-equity profile. These data to guide purposeful action, coupled with the major initiatives and investments ongoing in the city, hold promise for a continued trajectory towards greater health and well-being for all residents of Tampa in the coming years. 


Tampa has made some progress in its journey to promote health, well-being, and equity over the past five years, leveraged by its revitalization efforts. However, a number of barriers—including a lack of transportation infrastructure are expected to persist. 

Facilitators:

  • Tampa received multiple grants, awards, and emergency assistance, and investments

  • Large institutions promote health and well-being service, education, and research 

  • Large collection of health-related data

  • Cross-sector collaborations with non-traditional partners

  • Larger-scale, systemic issues initiatives 

Barriers:

  • Gap between rich and poor communities

  • Lack of affordable housing and poor transportation infrastructure

  • Lack of coordination in accessing health and social services 

  • Tensions between state and local government