Member Research and Reports

Member Research and Reports

Florida International Researchers Present First Report Documenting Zika’s Negative Impact on Miami

Dr. Timothy F. Page, associate professor in the Department of Health Policy and Management at Florida International University’s Robert Stempel College of Public Health and Social Work, and colleagues published the first study on the impact of Zika on businesses in an outbreak zone.

[Photo: Dr. Timothy F. Page]

When a trendy tourist magnet in Miami emerged as the cradle of the outbreak in June 2016, federal officials issued a public health alert for pregnant women and couples wanting to become pregnant to avoid traveling to the affected area. Miami-Dade County sprayed pesticides from the air and on the ground as panic ensued among residents and visitors, and put Wynwood under an international microscope.

The report, which appears in the latest issue of Disaster Prevention and Management: An International Journal, offers feedback from owners/managers of businesses in Wynwood following last year’s Zika outbreak.

The results reveal decreased revenues, profits, and customer traffic in the period following the Zika outbreak compared to the same time the prior year:

“Disease outbreaks can cause localized, short-term, economic shocks and the impact of these shocks can be severe. Balancing public health needs with the financial well-being of the community is at the heart of the issue,” said Dr. Page.

Names of 127 businesses were obtained from the Wynwood Arts District Association (WADA) and the Midtown Miami directory. All were contacted, and 44 participated in the survey (via phone or in-person) between August 15 and October 19, 2016.

Survey participants represent 14 restaurants, four bars, a dozen retail stores, nine art galleries and five “others.” They responded to about 20 questions via phone or in-person about their perceptions of revenues, profits, foot traffic, sales prices, inventories, staffing, and future expectations about these items. In addition, the survey asked businesses about their impressions of response to the outbreak by local and state government officials and media coverage.

Despite the declines, few businesses changed their prices, inventories or staff levels; this was consistent with the belief that the downturn would be temporary and business would return once the outbreak was over.

All businesses reported that the local/state government was unresponsive to the concerns of local businesses, and almost all businesses (98 percent) reported that media’s coverage of the Zika outbreak was too sensational.

The DPM report points to the need for public health and medical authorities to be strategic and forward thinking in preventing and responding to an outbreak, while collaborating more with local businesses in the zone. The findings were released in June and major media outlets such as The Miami Herald and WIOD-AM highlighted Dr. Page’s work.