In recent months, the nightly news opens with stories of crime, violence, poverty and disparity in America’s cities and then, quite often, right before signing off, it presents a somewhat lighter feature giving us ways to improve our health. Paradoxically, the network news giants are failing to highlight the connection between how the violence in our cities is affecting our population’s health.
As early as 1979, the U.S. Surgeon General’s report, Healthy People, stated that the consequences of violent behavior must be addressed as a matter of public health policy.
Evidence shows that exposure to direct or indirect violence has serious health consequences beyond obvious crime-related factors of injury and death. (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2011).
As public health professionals, we recite the mantra that our health is determined by where we live, learn, work and play. And to our credit, public health works with community development to create healthy spaces, farmers markets and playgrounds. However, if our neighborhoods are not safe, what kind of lasting impact can we expect to achieve?
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This is the challenge Liberty City in Miami is facing. Homicide rates increased 40 percent from 2011 to 2013. A 10-year-old boy was recently released from the hospital after being shot in the leg while riding his bike in the Liberty Square recreational center. A grandmother was killed when a gunman fired into a small crowd outside a Liberty City store. And a well-known pastor was gunned down for a handful of money and a gold-plated chain.
The Florida Institute for Health Innovation, Miami Children’s Initiative, the Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, Jackson Health System, Catalyst Miami, the Jesse Trice Community Health Center have come together to address crime and violence in Liberty City as an upstream factor that is keeping people sick. This initiative, “Building a Healthy and Resilient Liberty City” is one of 18 American neighborhood projects selected by the BUILD Health Challenge to develop innovative approaches to improve community health.
The BUILD Health Challenge, a national award created jointly by the Advisory Board Company, the de Beaumont Foundation, the Kresge Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Colorado Health Foundation, encourages communities to build meaningful partnerships between hospitals and health systems, community-based organizations and local health departments to improve the health of local populations by addressing the factors that lead to poor health.
Using a data-driven, results-based approach to collaborative leadership, the Florida Institute for Health Innovation is bringing to Liberty City a framework for collective action that has been used successfully to reduce infant mortality in Baltimore and with the California Endowment’s Boys and Men of Color initiative which was the foundation for President Obama’s “My Brother’s Keeper.”
Miami Children’s Initiative will use its “block-by-block” approach with residents to drive planning for results. Catalyst Miami will provide Liberty City parents with leadership training to build community capacity for resident-driven collective action.
The Florida Department of Health in Miami-Dade County, Jessie Trice Community Health Center and Jackson Health Systems work collaboratively, contributing data and strategies, as part of a year-long planning project for a safer and healthier Liberty City.
Through the power of collaboration, healthy changes are on agenda for the people of Liberty City. Our goal is to make positive headways, not negative headlines.
For more information on the Florida Institute for Health Innovation: http://flhealthinnovation.org/
For more information on Building a Healthy Liberty City:
For more information on the Miami Children’s Initiative:
For more information on the Build Health Challenge Awards: http://www.buildhealthchallenge.org/awards/
Dr. Roderick K. King is chief executive officer of the Florida Institute for Health Innovation. It was founded in 2001 as the Miami Dade County Public Health Institute and later reincorporated and moved to Lake Worth.