Leading a Community to Health

Want people to bike more? Try adding some bike trails and bike racks. Would-be walkers get inspired by sidewalks and trails. Simply said, the environment affects behaviors. If we can make the healthy choice the easy choice where all of us live, learn, work and play, we can become a healthier community. We believe if you build it with health in mind, they will come. Does your community support healthy lifestyle choices?

Leading a Community to Health from WPHF on Vimeo.

When Bruce Mount was elected Mayor of the Town of Eatonville he expected lots of paperwork to cross his desk. What he didn’t expect was the steady flow of funeral notices requiring his signature. There were two or three notices a week, for young and old.

walk_mayor_sqMayor Mount decided something needed to be done to help boost the health of his community and slow the flow of these notices.

His idea—to create a walking group because walking is something everyone can do. And he said he felt it was important to add a talk element so walkers could get exercise but also talk about health issues in the community and talk about city business. Mayor Mount’s “Walk and Talk” was born.

It started out as an eight-week project with residents meeting up at 7 a.m. Monday and Wednesday for their walks with Mayor Mount followed by a healthy breakfast and friendly conversation. The Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) was an early supporter of the project and provided grant funding for the healthy refreshments.

The program now is two years old and residents continue to show up at Hungerford Prep smiling and energized for their 7 a.m. walk with the Mayor. And, according to Mayor Mount, the group is ready for another two years.

Mayor Mount’s walk has been accompanied by many other positive health changes in Eatonville, many led by members of the Healthy Eatonville Team (HET). The HET is one of three teams created as part of Healthy Central Florida (HCF), a community-based initiative founded by Florida Hospital (FH) and WPHF to make Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville the healthiest communities in the nation.

Each community team is composed of volunteers from a variety of fields who work with the town to create long-term sustainable healthy changes that improve the health of residents today and in the future.

HET’s efforts, which have ranged from refurbishing a gym, to installing bike racks and hosting a clean-up day for the city, have been further inspired by the results of a health survey of residents commissioned by HCF, showing the rate of diabetes among Eatonville residents is 24.2% – nearly triple the national average and nearly double that of African Americans.

And there is more help on the way to make sure Eatonville is a healthier place to live, learn, work and play.

Healthy Eatonville Place, a neighborhood center where residents can get health and wellness screenings, healthy cooking and nutrition classes, diabetes education and healthy living programs for kids and their families, will open in spring 2014. (Healthy Eatonville Place is made possible by FH, WPHF, and HCF in collaboration with the Town of Eatonville.)