The city of Hialeah achieved a dubious distinction on Wednesday: One of the worst places to lead an active lifestyle in the country.
A study by finance social network WalletHub ranked Hialeah as the fifth worst locale of the 100 most populated cities nationwide in 2014.
The study analyzed 25 different metrics among the 100 cities, from the number of swimming pools per capita to the average monthly fitness club fee. Hialeah fell short when it came to the availability of fitness centers (No. 83), fitness trainers (No. 90) and public parks (No. 99).
The city’s lack of park playgrounds per capita placed it near the bottom of all the cities, ranking it 97 out of 100. Hialeah has only 15 parks for its more than 233,000 residents. The city of Miami, by comparison, has 112 parks for its 417,000 residents, or more than eight times the number of parks that Hialeah has.
“Childhood obesity is a huge problem nowadays and park playgrounds can really help,” said Jill Gonzalez, a WalletHub spokesperson. “It is something that doesn’t cost money for families so if Hialeah increased the number of playgrounds, it would really help with their ranking.”
Gonzalez says there is hope for a fit Hialeah. The city came in at No. 14 for the number of people on MeetUp.com who are interested in participating in pick-up sports games.
“There are people trying to establish free physical activity there so that is good,” Gonzalez said.
Fortunately, initiatives are underway to get more Hialeah residents moving.
The same day that WalletHub revealed its findings, Amerigroup announced it would provide a grant of more than $500,000 to the city of Hialeah and the American College of Sports Medicine to expand health and fitness programs in the community.
“Obesity has plagued our entire country, Hialeah being no different,” said Jeffrey Lagomacini, city education special programs director. “We are not only targeting the children, but mom and dad as well.”
Amerigroup spokesperson Denise Malecki says the health insurance company determined which areas had low scores of health and fitness and saw Hialeah as somewhere that could benefit from its support. The company connected with more than 20 local organizations to work with residents.
“We realized for this to be effective, we had to reach out to local leaders,” Malecki said. “It could be a church organization that does yoga or a food pantry that gives access to nutritious food.”
Through the grant, the initiative will recruit medical doctors in the community to encourage healthy living.
“A lot of the residents may be set in their ways,” Malecki said. “Sometimes it takes the outreach of doctors to share information about fitness and nutrition and get them healthy.”