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The Florida Department of Health works to protect, promote & improve the health of all people in Florida through integrated state, county & community efforts.

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Focus On

Contact: Florida Health

Focus On is updated on FLHealthCHARTS each month to bring attention to Florida’s State Health Improvement Plan priority areas and Agency priority areas.

Sexually Transmitted Disease

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum. It has often been called "the great imitator" because so many signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases. When not adequately treated, syphilis can lead to visual impairment, hearing loss, stroke, and other neurological problems. Congenital syphilis is a severe, disabling, and often life-threatening infection seen in infants. A pregnant mother who has syphilis can transmit the disease through the placenta to the unborn infant. Congenital syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or early infant death, and infected infants can experience lifelong physical and neurologic problems. Florida reports cases of congenital syphilis based on a standardized surveillance case definition developed by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported increases in syphilis nearly every year since 2001. In 2018, Florida’s primary and secondary syphilis (syphilis that is infectious) rate was 13.7 per 100,000 population, surpassed only by six other states: Louisiana (14.3), New Mexico (14.9), Georgia (15.4), Alabama (15.5), California (19.2) and Nevada (22.7). 1

Florida’s syphilis rates are increasing. Early syphilis (syphilis acquired within a year) rates increased, from 8.3 per 100,000 population in 2006 to 34.8 in 2019 (Figure 1). Among males ages 15–44, rates of total syphilis increased from 42.4 per 100,000 population in 2006 to 176.0 in 2019; among females, rates increased from 19.1 per 100,000 population to 46.3 in 2019 (Figure 2). Florida’s congenital syphilis rates have increased from 8.8 per 100,000 live births and fetal deaths in 2006 to 65.9 in 2019 (Figure 3).

The Florida Department of Health, in partnership with the CDC; Healthy Start Coalitions of Miami-Dade, Broward, Orange and Duval Counties; The Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer Center of Central Florida; BLISS Healthcare Services and Florida Department of Education, are working to reduce syphilis rates. Florida’s State Health Improvement Plan includes objectives for reducing rates of early syphilis, syphilis cases among women of reproductive age (15–44), and congenital syphilis cases.

Figure 1. Early Syphilis
Early Syphilis

Figure 2. Total Syphilis
Total Syphilis

Figure 3. Congenital Syphilis
Congenital Syphilis


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Focus On Topics from Prior Months:

  • Immunizations & Influenza
  • Suicide Prevention
  • Hepatitis A
  • Alzheimer's Disease and Related Dementias
  • Behavioral Health
  • Healthy Weight, Nutrition & Physical Activity
  • Health Equity

Vaccination protects adults and children from serious disease. Being immunized also reduces the risk of complications from certain diseases, especially among those with compromised immune systems, by reducing the chance of passing on serious diseases to others. The World Health Organization cites multiple benefits of vaccination including elimination of diseases, reduction of morbidity and complications, protection of the unvaccinated population and prevention of related diseases and certain cancers. As the 2020 flu season approaches, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending early flu vaccine for children 6 months through 8 years of age who need 2 doses and later vaccinations (starting September) for older adults.

Florida’s State Health Improvement Plan addresses vaccination and influenza as a priority, and we are working toward improving access to vaccines across the lifespan. Specific objectives focus on improving access to vaccines for pregnant women, infants, children and teens. Approximately 83.5% of 2-year olds received the basic vaccine series, and 93.5% and 96.1% of kindergarten and 7th grade students, respectively, were up to date with recommended vaccines during school year 2019-20.

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Suicide is among the top 10 leading causes of death in the United States (CDC). In Florida, suicide is the 8th leading cause of death, claiming over 3,427 lives in 2019. Additionally, suicide attempts result in an even larger number of non-fatal, intentional self-harm injuries. In 2018, the latest data currently available, over 20,000 non-fatal intentional self-harm hospitalizations and emergency department visits occurred. These conditions prompted Florida to focus on suicide prevention as a priority in the State Health Improvement Plan by taking the following actions:

  • Providing training on suicide prevention and related behaviors to community and clinical service providers.
  • Increasing suicide prevention efforts for high-risk populations.
  • Collaborating across agencies to develop messaging and initiatives around suicide surveillance data from the Florida Violent Death Reporting System.

The Department of Children and Families coordinates these activities with its participating partners, the Florida Department of Health and the Florida Behavioral Health Association.

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Hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable, communicable disease of the liver caused by the hepatitis A virus. Nationally, hepatitis A infection rates have increased since 2016, when reported cases went from 0.6 per 100,000 population to nearly 4.0 per 100,000 population in 2018.

Incidence of Hepatitis
Source: CDC,

Florida also saw an increase in hepatitis A infections in recent years. After several years of relative stability, the number of reported hepatitis A cases more than doubled from 2016 to 2017 and dramatically increased in 2019. Since February 2020, the number of cases reported each month decreased but still remain above expected levels. Since January 2018, 98% of Florida’s cases were likely acquired in Florida and share several common risk factors including both injection and non-injection drug use and recently experiencing homelessness. The best way to prevent hepatitis A infection is through vaccination.

Hepatitis A Cases, Florida

Hepatitis A Cases
Source: Florida Department of Health, as of 6/20/20

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Get Data: Hepatitis A

Alzheimer’s disease slowly destroys memory and thinking skills and, eventually, the ability to carry out the simplest tasks. It is the most common cause of dementia among the senior population. African Americans are twice as likely, and Hispanics are one and a half times as likely as older whites to have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Prevalence is higher among women compared to men; two-thirds of Americans with Alzheimer’s disease are women.

Dementia is one of the major causes of disability and dependency among older people worldwide. Dementia has a physical, psychological, social, and economic impact, not only on people with dementia, but also on their careers, families and society at large. (WHO). There is no known cure, however, innovative research may provide hope for effective and novel treatment for this incapacitating disease.

In Florida, in 2018, Alzheimer’s’ disease was the 6th leading cause of death statewide, and an estimated 553,734 Floridians 65 years and older had probable Alzheimer’s. About 8.5% of Floridians over 65 years and older reported having a cognitive disability; moreover, 24.4% of this age-group lived alone (2014-18 US Census). These conditions prompted Florida to focus on Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias as a priority in the State Health Improvement Plan. The Florida Department of Health and participating partners are working to support the specific needs of this vulnerable population by taking the following actions:

  • Identifying a statewide system of resources and support to formalize the Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) network.
  • Strengthening the capacity of care organizations to assess, diagnose and treat individuals with ADRD and expand support for their caregivers.
  • Protecting individuals with ADRD from further vulnerability.

Participating partners include the University of South Florida Morsani College of Medicine, Alzheimer’s Association, Mayo Clinic, University of South Florida Byrd Alzheimer’s Center and Research Institute, Florida Association of Community Health Centers, Florida Atlantic University, Florida A&M University, Alzheimer’s advocate and University of South Florida College of Public Health.

For additional data about Florida’s older population, see’s Aging In Florida Profile and the Florida Department of Elder Affairs’ Demographic Profiles and Statistics.

Behavioral health disorders, including mental illness and substance abuse, are often inter-connected with other general medical conditions. People who grow up in good physical health are more likely to also have good mental health. Similarly, good mental health often contributes to maintenance of good physical health. National Research Council and Institute of Medicine.
Consider the following statistics for Florida:

  • 28.3% of middle and high school students reported that, within in the past year, they felt sad or hopeless for two or more weeks in a row and stopped doing usual activities (YTS, 2019).
  • 12.1% of middle and high school students reported that within the past year, they did something to purposely hurt themselves without wanting to die (YTS, 2019)
  • 15.6% of adults reported ever having had a depressive disorder. (BRFSS, 2018)
  • 12.8% of adults reported having poor mental health on 14 or more of the past 30 days (BRFSS, 2018)

Recent research suggests that preventing mental, emotional, and behavioral disorders is inherently interdisciplinary and draws on a variety of different strategies1. For example, improving family functioning and positive parenting has positive effects on mental health and can reduce poverty-related risk. Integrating behavioral health objectives within Florida’s State Health Improvement Plan acknowledges this interdisciplinary approach. One goal is to reduce mental, emotional and behavioral health disorders in children through improved identification and treatment of behavioral health disorders in parents who come in contact with the child welfare system. Other goals include decreasing the number of newborns experiencing neonatal abstinence syndrome, reducing the number of opioid overdose deaths among individuals with opioid use disorders and reducing the number of suicides in Florida. Reports
National & International

1 Lando J, Marshall Williams S, Sturgis S, et al. A logic model for the integration of mental health into chronic disease prevention and health promotion. Prev Chronic Dis. 2006 April;3(2):A61.

Healthy eating and physical activity are keys to maintaining a healthy weight. Being at a healthy weight is related to a lower risk for several serious health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and certain cancers. Promoting healthy weight includes both weight loss or gain, depending on one’s current health and weight status. For those who are overweight, even a modest weight loss can have a positive impact on health. Healthy weight can also impact energy levels, sleep habits, self-esteem, psychological health and health care costs. For these reasons, Florida’s State Health Improvement Plan addresses healthy weight, nutrition and physical activity as a priority. Florida is working toward improving not only the food environment and nutrition habits, but opportunities for physical activity across the lifespan.

Did you know that in 2018, only 32.2% of adults in Florida were at a healthy weight? Overweight and obesity is also a serious concern among our youth and disproportionally impacts black and Hispanic youths. The Healthiest Weight Profile presents key measures of weight, activity, and eating habits among adults and also includes measures about the built environment. Data is available by county and for Florida. For each measure in the report, trends, quartile maps and data tables are available by clicking the links.




Health equity means attaining the highest level of health for all people. Florida’s State Health Assessment identified health equity, including social and economic factors, as key contributors to health outcomes. Consequently, Florida’s State Health Improvement Plan addresses health equity as a priority. The Health Equity Profile presents key measures of health equity by county and for Florida. The report explores dimensions like distribution of opportunity, community determinants, the physical and economic environments, health services and outcomes. Rate ratios are provided to understand health equity issues in Florida’s counties. The Community Social and Economic Factors report displays contextual factors such as poverty, employment, educational attainment, income, health insurance and more by census tract, by county and for Florida.

Click here for more data.