Healthy Central Florida Awards $25,000 For Projects To Get Residents Moving

HCF-Grant-Breakfast-053-300x199Ten local innovative ideas to increase active living–ranging from marked walking paths, and the rollout of a bike valet service to promote cycling, to creating a healthy activity smart phone app by a UCF Ph.D. student–have been selected as the winners of Healthy Central Florida’s (HCF) inaugural Health Innovation Grants.

The grants—launched to inspire increased activity and to improve health in Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville—total $25,000.

One of the most unique grants was the creation of a Smart Phone App designed specifically for Central Florida that educates, engages and rewards people for healthy choices and activities. The grant was submitted by a UCF Ph.D. candidate, Michelle Gardner, who was inspired to create the app after attending another HCF presentation where she learned about the health disparities and high rates of diabetes, obesity and chronic health problems.

“Creating a game that rewards players who walk for 30 minutes, ride their bicycle to work, or pick a healthy lunch presents a compensation system that engages and encourages through a socially acknowledged, earned reward,” Gardner said. “Using present day technology, we can create a smartphone-based app that builds community involvement, stimulates physical participation through nonmonetary reward systems, and encourages lifestyle changes.”

In order to inspire additional partners in the work of developing the healthiest communities in the nation, Healthy Central Florida announced the grant program in a May 8 educational workshop that drew more than 100 participants.

To be able to qualify for the grants, applicants had to attend the workshop led by nationally renowned community design and environmental change expert and former host of the PBS Series America’s Walking, Mark Fenton.

Research shows that our environment, culture and social norms impact behavior and choices. To help applicants better understand how to create lasting change and community-level solutions, HCF conducted this workshop about creating sustainable change. “Creating true behavior change takes much more than conducting a health fair or a ‘one off’ special event,” said Jill Hamilton Buss, Executive Director of Healthy Central Florida. “The gold standard would include changing policies, the physical environment or implementing programs that lead to culture change.”

“The response to our first health innovation grant workshop and application process far exceeded our expectations,” said Hamilton Buss. “Our community understands the critical importance of improving health. To attract great companies, to attract and retain young talent, to enjoy the highest quality of life, we must be a connected, walkable, bike-able healthy community. These grants and the exciting work that will follow will help us take another giant leap in making our community the healthiest in the nation. “In the end, 10 applications were selected to receive funding at $2,500 each.

Some of the winning projects include:

  • A bike training and promotion program for Eatonville from Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church
  • A healthy activity smart phone app being developed by a Ph.D. student from UCF
  • The introduction and use of “parklets”, a new concept for Central Florida, to help connect walking and biking routes through the three communities
  • Marked walking paths in Maitland that will promote walking among residents and employees
  •  A review of the Comprehensive Plan for the Town of Eatonville, to ensure that the tenets of “healthy community design” are adhered to as the town undergoes a surge in redevelopment
  •  The rollout of a bike valet service in Winter Park to promote cycling in the city
  •  The implementation of a safety course to help children learn safe walking and cycling (to school) in all three communities