Healthy Central Florida Inspires Good Health & Fun

MSC 2014 - Mike Pics 41The 450 some residents who bundled up early November 1 to join in the 3rd Annual Mayor’s Sole challenge–braving hat-tossing gusts and Maine-like temperatures–are a sign of healthy changes taking place in Central Florida, many through the leadership of Healthy Central Florida (HCF).

Residents and mayors came to join in the HCF community walk, and they did so eagerly, accompanied by family and friends—all in the name of good health.

It’s just one example of the healthy activities, programs and policies launched by HCF all in an effort to help Central Florida—beginning with Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville–become the healthiest community in the U.S.

Just three years old, HCF was founded by Florida Hospital and the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) with the goal of improving the health and quality of life for residents through healthy eating, active living and tobacco use cessation.

MSC 2014 - Mike Pics 50HCF is trying to encourage the health improvements with an emphasis on policy and environmental changes that support healthy behaviors.

“The more we do to make the healthy choice the easy choice, the healthier we all will be,” said Jill Hamilton Buss, HCF Executive Director.

Healthy Community Teams were established in each of the three communities to guide local efforts to meet the needs of their residents. The teams include leaders representing various sectors such as business, faith, education, health care and government.

With their help, HCF has racked up a number of successes. Here are a few highlights:

  • Smoke Free Parks resolutions have passed in all three communities
  • The number of children walking and biking to school continues to increase. On International Walk to School Day in October—an event supported and promoted by HCF–there was a 72 percent increase in walkers and bikers from a baseline survey taken just a week earlier.
  • MSC 2014 - Mike Pics 39More than $1 million was raised for Healthy Eatonville Place, a center for health, wellness and diabetes education in Eatonville to help curb the community’s high diabetes rate, which was discovered through an HCF survey in November 2011.
  • Mini-grants totaling more than $85,000 have been awarded for innovative ideas to improve healthy food access and increase active living. Funded projects ranged from marked walking paths and the rollout of a bike valet service to fleet farming and a mobile farmers market targeting low income seniors and families.
  • Walking groups have been established in each community.
  • Mayors of the three target communities are collaborating, and there is discussion of regional health, walkability and connectivity in all discussions in the communities.

Next up, Hamilton Buss said HCF will be taking a look at ways to encourage local restaurants to offer smoke-free dining on patios. The project is called Breathe Free Winter Park, and more information is available on its Facebook page.

MSC 2014 - Mike Pics 67“The exciting news is that we are already seeing results,” said Hamilton Buss. “But this is a marathon and not a sprint. It requires all of us working together with a long-term vision—employers, city leaders, restaurateurs, traffic engineers and school administrators working alongside parents—for years to come. Together, I honestly believe we can become the healthiest communities in the nation.”