As a physician training at a local safety-net hospital, I keep track of the patients I see. About 60 percent of patients I have encountered suffer from a combination of diet-related diseases. Considering the statistics, my patients are not outliers: 30 million Americans have diabetes (one of every 10 citizens); 26 million have heart disease; 32 million have hypertension; 6.4 million have suffered a stroke. The numbers are appalling.
The way we consume food is troublesome, and there have been great national efforts to try to change the way we think about eating in relation to health. But more needs to be done locally. In Miami-Dade County, more than 66 percent of adults are overweight or obese. In addition, 250,000 Miami residents live in areas considered “food deserts,” with little access to fresh fruit, vegetables and other healthful whole foods. They usually are found in impoverished areas because of the lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets and healthy food providers.
One solution is the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), which would give monetary incentives for business-minded citizens to expand or start fresh-food grocery stores in places considered food deserts. As a healthcare provider, changing the way my patients consume unhealthy food is probably the single most important thing I can do to increase their life expectancy.
Across the country, public-private partnerships are working to bring full-service grocery stores into communities that need them most. In Florida, an estimated 1,640 stores could apply, creating new jobs and addressing the immediate need for quality nutritious foods.
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Tell local leaders to support HB 153 sponsored by state Rep. David Santiago and SB 760, by state Sen. Aaron Bean. It will bring healthy-food financing projects to our community. Our well-being depends upon it.
Armen Henderson, American College of Physicians, 2016 Health Policy Intern, Miami