Diseases in Puerto Rico
Chronic diseases in Puerto Rico have been on the rise in recent years. According to the Puerto Rico Report, more than half of the deaths reported on the island are due to chronic diseases. In 2010, 57% of deaths were due to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and strokes. The Puerto Rican Report also said more than one-third of Puerto Ricans have diabetes, more than 18% have arthritis and 17% have reported asthma throughout their adulthood.

Poverty and Chronic Diseases

Puerto Rico Report stated in an article that poverty has a connection with the increase of chronic diseases as households with an income of around $15,000 per year or less have higher chances of developing a chronic disease. Chronic diseases result in disabilities that can deteriorate the workforce and exacerbate the health care system. The CDC stated that 21% of Puerto Ricans have reported having serious mobility restrictions.

A study that the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published stated that, compared to the general mainland population in the United States, chronic disease occurrence levels and mortality rates are higher for the people living in Puerto Rico. Around 44.3% of individuals who reported food insecurity in the study also reported that they perceived their health to be average or poor. The study also found that as of 2020, 5,000 doctors had left the island to work in the United States for economic reasons leaving the island, marking a 36% decline in medical staff on the island. Health care services in Puerto Rico currently face the risk of funding reduction in the Medicaid program that could lead to 1.5 million people losing health care coverage.

Financial Burdens

The Puerto Rico Report stated that citizens of the island are currently not eligible for Supplemental Security Income due to its status as a colony. The rising cost of pharmaceutical medicines and treatments has left the high levels of chronic disease to increase the financial burdens on the island. More than half of Puerto Rican residents are eligible for Medicaid. However, they do not receive enough funding to cover the cost of their disease’s treatment.


In 2014, the Puerto Rican government released the “Puerto Rico Chronic Disease Action Plan” that focuses on collecting data, chronic disease self-management education, intervention plans within communities and increasing access to nutritious food and physical activity. The plan could strengthen the health care system on the island while increasing the economic position of Puerto Rico as the government looks to build medical manufacturing on the island to increase profit and medications. The plan is also looking to increase a clinical trial network within the island and develop local primary health.

The Puerto Rican government developed the model from the chronic model that the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) created and implemented in countries such as Brazil, Argentina, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. This model has reduced hospitalization rates due to diabetes, hypertension and other chronic conditions. It has also decreased the economic strain of the health care system in the different countries. “The model has six components: organization of care, community engagement, support for self-management, clinical information systems, design of service delivery systems, and support for clinical decisions,” PAHO stated.

The government has yet to release any update on the progress of the model due to the pandemic drawing attention away from the increasing risk of chronic diseases on the island. Chronic illnesses still present a big risk factor on the island from both the economic and health care perspective. However, many of the education sections of the model have increased health awareness on the island. As the island begins to move away from the COVID-19 pandemic hope increases for an increase in resources for chronic illness treatment.

– Nuria Diaz
Photo: Flickr

Lampedusa, migrants
In 2016, more than 65 million people were displaced around the world. While a majority of these people were displaced within their own countries, millions still fleed to search for a new home. Many of them tried and successfully reached Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. In popular media, the island Lampedusa began to appear in tandem with the migrant crisis. This article will answer the questions of what is Lampedusa and how it is involved in the refugee crisis.

What is Lampedusa?

Lampedusa is an eight square mile island located in the Mediterranean Sea. It is located roughly 70 miles from Tunisia, which actually makes it closer to Africa than Europe. It is a part of Italy and is populated by approximately 6,000 people.

In recent years, thousands of migrant arrived in Lampedusa. In 2013, over 13,000 migrants came to this small island by boat. This is a sharp decrease from 60,000 people that passed through the island in 2011. However, this large influx of migrants continues and puts a large pressure on the island. What is Lampedusa doing to house migrants?

Lampedusa, being a tiny island with a very small population, does not have the resources or the housing to hold the sharp influx of migrants. The remnants of an old naval base are used to help house migrants while they wait to get sent to another part of Italy to have their case heard.

However, this base only has a capacity of 800 people. In some cases, it used to house thousands of migrants. Migrants are supposed to stay for only a few days on the island but reports have shown that most of them stay for two to three weeks before leaving. During the day, migrants wander the streets since the shelters are only meant to be used during the night.

Migrant’s Health Problems

Many migrants contract diseases in their journeys to Europe due to the fact that they are in overcrowded boats, vans, buses and rafts for long periods of time. The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health recently released a study examining migrants headed to Italy and Greece and nearly 40 percent of the participants reported that they contracted an illness in their route to Europe.

Migrants also suffer stress and trauma in their journeys since many are mistreated and abused by smugglers. Some also witness deaths of people traveling with them due to dehydration or suffocation in rafts. If migrants are arriving in bad conditions, what is Lampedusa doing to help them?

Although Lampedusa lacks resources, that does not stop locals from providing food, blankets and other forms of hospitality towards the groups of migrants arriving. The people of the island are helping those who arrive in every way possible, directly affecting poverty reduction of migrants. In 2011, 2014, and 2016, the island was nominated for a Noble Peace Prize for the locals’ generosity.

The Order of Malta

From the more administrative side, the Order of Malta helps Lampedusa with the rescuing and health treatment of migrants that arrive by sea. Since the Orders’ involvement with Lampedusa, it has rescued over 55,000 people. The ships also provide medical services to migrants. Between 2008 and 2013, the Order of Malta provided medical services to over 4,000 people.

As the migrant crisis continues the situation in Lampedusa remains critical. While the people of Lampedusa and the Order of Malta continue to help migrants that arrive, they lack adequate resources to meet all of the migrant’s needs.

However, it is important to acknowledge the work that is being done. It shows that even though Lampedusa is overstretched, its people and communities are still willing to help and harbor migrants in their search for a better life in Europe.

– Drew Garbe

Photo: Flickr