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Caribbean Health Initiative

According to the Migration Policy Institute, Florida is home to 1.6 million Caribbean immigrants, representing approximately 41 percent of the Caribbean immigrant population in the United States. The South Florida tri-county area comprises three quarters of these individuals, most of whom hail from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Haiti and Trinidad and Tobago. They speak a variety of languages and have diverse cultural health beliefs and practices.

A disproportionate number of these individuals are more susceptible to obesity and related diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. Certain populations also have a higher risk of certain types of cancer.

Led by Farzanna S. Haffizulla, M.D., FACP, FAMWA, chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at NSU’s Dr. Kiran C. Patel College of Osteopathic Medicine, the Caribbean Diaspora Health Initiative was established to provide patients in this population with improved access to education, resources and care—and to ultimately help prevent these incidences. The effort consists of multiple projects and pools resources from partners throughout the community to advance the health of the Caribbean population in South Florida.

For more information, please visit us at

Projects and Partners

Based on available food, geography and other factors, many Caribbean cultures maintain diets heavy in fats, sugar and sodium. These ingredients can cause greater risk of obesity, which can result in major health complications such as diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and stroke. To address this issue, the College of Osteopathic Medicine and its partners are developing a targeted, culturally appropriate educational communication campaign focused on improving nutrition among the Caribbean immigrant population. Based on the National Institutes of Health’s Go, Slow, Whoa materials, the campaign will use a traffic light pattern to help people select healthier alternatives.

  • GO foods are commonly described as “whole foods,” meaning they’re generally the least processed and are the lowest in salt (sodium), added sugars and/or unhealthy fats. Examples of GO foods may include fresh fruits, vegetables and whole-grain foods.
  • SLOW foods are in between GO and WHOA foods and include sweetened (including flavored) one-percent milk, refined-grain foods and fruit with added sugar.
  • WHOA foods are generally the most processed and are highest in unhealthy fats, added sugars and/or salt. These include candy, cookies, chips, fast food, fried foods, ice cream, soft drinks and sugary cereals.

The initial phase of this research project is supported by a grant from the NSU Quality of Life Council. Community partners include the Florida Department of Health in Broward County, Broward Regional Health Planning Council, YMCA, Children Services Council, Family Nutrition Project – Broward Division, Broward County Libraries and the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

Expanding on its health equity focus, the college plans to create the first community-based registry to collect epidemiologic and social determinants of the most prevalent malignancies in Caribbean immigrants. This will catalyze the development of targeted interventions for disease prevention, cancer screenings and education that align with Caribbean culture and ethnic preferences. Our goal is to build the infrastructure to communicate best practices in cancer care, diagnosis and prevention to health care providers and patients in our local communities.

This long-term project will support a statewide, coordinated system of cancer care for the Caribbean diaspora aimed at improving health behaviors, infrastructure, access and collaboration among academic and community-based services.

 As a college focused on community and global health, we are committed to aligning our work with ongoing health care initiatives and promoting synergy among our collaborators that strengthens our mission and vision—and ultimately establishes a healthy ecosystem. 

  • Broward County Public Libraries
  • Broward Regional Health Planning Council (BRHPC)
  • Broward Sheriff’s Office
  • Children’s Services Council of Broward County
  • Florida Atlantic University, Osher Lifelong Learning Institute
  • Florida Department of Health, Broward County (DOH)
  • Florida House of Representatives, District 95
  • Florida International University, Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine
  • Florida International University, Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work
  • Florida State University
  • Food for Health, the Environment, Economy and Democracy (FHEED)
  • Health Council of South Florida, Inc. (HCSF)
  • Health Council of Southeast Florida (HCSEF)
  • Health Foundation of South Florida (HFSF)
  • Hispanic Unity of Florida, Empowering a New Generation of Americans
  • Medical Associates of Tamarac, P.A.
  • Saint Jude Ministries Inc.
  • Southeast Florida Cancer Control Collaborative (SFCCC)
  • Tri-County Life Care, Inc., health care services
  • University of Central Florida, College of Medicine
  • University of Florida- Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF-IFAS) extension program
  • University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Department of Family Medicine and Community Health Affairs
  • University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami Center for AIDS Research
  • University of South Florida, College of Public Health
  • YMCA

If you or your organization have shared values and wish to collaborate with the college, please contact Farzanna S. Haffizulla at

Together, we will make great positive impact on the health and wellness of our growing Caribbean community. Financial help will bolster and amplify our work in support of health equity and strengthen our ability to eliminate health disparities as we move closer toward achieving our Healthy People 2020 goals. With your help, we will make positive strides to stamp out diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancer for our Caribbean people.

Partner With Us

If you or your organization have shared values and wish to collaborate with the Diaspora Health Initiative, please submit your information to and a member of our team will reach out to you. If you or your family is from the Caribbean, please indicate which island in the email.

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