College of Health and Public Affairs hosts symposium on creating healthy communities
By Angie Lewis, ’03
Ask Central Floridians what comes to mind when they think of Bithlo, and you may hear words like “trailer park,” “Podunk” or “poor.” But, to the residents of this 10.9-square-mile town, it’s the place they call home.
Now, it’s transforming into a healthier community, thanks to some help from Orange County, United Global Outreach, Florida Hospital and Volunteer UCF.
On April 22, during a health care symposium hosted by the College of Health and Public Affairs, a panel of five guest speakers addressed the town’s residents, answering questions about the challenges they’ve faced, and how the community’s partners have addressed those challenges, as part of a Creating Healthy Communities initiative focused on improving quality of life in Central Florida.
Those panelists included Bithlo resident Enrique “Kiki” Lopez, former Orange County Mayor Richard Crotty, Tim McKinney from United Global Outreach, Verbelle Nielsen-Swanson from Florida Hospital and Anna Eskamani from Volunteer UCF.
McKinney explained that they asked residents of East Orlando’s Avalon Park — Bithlo’s more affluent neighbor — the following questions: “Is it OK for you to have brown water?” “Would you be OK with having an illegal dump in your backyard?” “Is it OK for your neighbors to deal with these problems?” And, each time, their answer was “no.”
“No zip code or neighborhood should determine your likelihood to succeed or fail,” McKinney says. “We’re trying to start a movement where neighbors care about neighbors, and friends care about friends … where the residents of Bithlo have an equal opportunity to succeed.”