The framework United Way of Lake and Sumter Counties uses to create strategies to address the challenges residents face are the ten root causes of poverty.
As defined by the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida Prosperity Project, the root causes of poverty are the problems that need to be solved in order to lift people into prosperity.
Two of the ten root causes are disproportionate health access and outcomes and lack of consistent access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods. To combat these barriers for Lake and Sumter residents, UWLS launched its Together for Health and Wellness program at the beginning of 2024.
Health and Wellness Navigator Connie Driver discusses how the new program is designed to improve local people’s access to quality healthcare and nutritious food.


Was THW created to help combat disproportionate health access/outcomes and access to nutritionally adequate and safe foods? And why did UWLS think it was necessary?

Lake county has a high percentage of people without health insurance or ability to access medical services. UWLS noticed that most of the clients assisted by our Family Stability Services department had inadequate access to healthcare.

After careful planning, UWLS decided that starting a health program would be beneficial for the community, not only in addressing the healthcare needs, but also to provide the residents of Lake County with the opportunity of focusing on other needs without neglecting their medical needs.


How do access to health care and food affect poverty vs. prosperity?

Without access to health care and food security, it would be difficult to build a path that takes our communities from poverty to prosperity. Ensuring that members of our communities have the opportunity to access these resources without having to neglect other vital needs guarantees that communities can thrive.


Are these causes of poverty prevalent in our communities? How do you know?

While all the ten root causes of poverty are present in our communities, the most prevalent are access to affordable housing and access to health care. Most of the clients assisted through UWLS and partnering agencies have dealt at some point in their lives with issues in accessing affordable and adequate housing and affordable medical care, making it evident that these two root causes of poverty are the most prevalent in our communities.


How does UWLS plan to improve health care access and outcomes and access to healthy food?

UWLS plans on improving access to healthcare and healthy food in various ways. First, UWLS has been working toward raising awareness in the community of the importance of adequate access to healthcare and healthy food through health summits. We will be holding our first health summit on June 22.

Second, UWLS will be providing qualifying individuals with the opportunity to visit a doctor with Community Health Centers at no cost to the client. And finally, UWLS will be providing wraparound services for clients to access other services not provided by our agency.


Why is it important for community members to know about these barriers?

Raising awareness is the first step to solving a prevalent issue. Our main goal is to advocate for those affected by this problem and eventually collaborate with other members in the community to help bridge the gap in access to affordable and adequate health care.


What else would you like people to know?

If you have any healthcare needs that you have been neglecting or know of someone who has not been able to access adequate medical care, do not hesitate to reach out for help. Adequate medical care and nutritious food are vital for our functioning.