“Our destination ultimately is for everybody to have health equity, for everybody to be able to reach their optimal health status, and for barriers to be eliminated,” says Paula Thaqi, director of the Florida Department of Health in Broward County.
Broward County is one of the most expensive places to live in the country, creating an economic barrier to health. About half of residents pay more than a third of their income on housing. Of working individuals and families, 44 percent are unable to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care and transportation, according to a United Way study.
When too much of a paycheck goes toward rent or mortgage, it makes it hard to afford the doctor, cover utility bills, or maintain reliable transportation to work or school, all of which have an impact on health. Broward also has the second highest rate of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses in the country, which has led the county to make treatment, prevention, and access to care a health priority.
Other barriers to health are not as easily measured, but no less obstacles, such as the collective trauma from devastating hurricanes and mass violence, as well as an ongoing legacy of racial segregation and discrimination.
To address these challenges, leaders from government, businesses and nonprofits work in tandem through the Coordinating Council of Broward to advocate for action, aligning around four core issues: increasing affordable housing; recovering from disasters; dealing with collective trauma; and ensuring the county’s aging population can live well.
At the neighborhood level, residents are encouraged to champion their community’s health through five county-led Healthy Community Zones.
They identify their most pressing health challenges and help shape policies and practices to address those concerns, such as creating safer streets or reducing tobacco use.
In “going big,” the Broward community has: