In 2012, 500 community leaders from across the region came together to hear Dr. Oz and to christen a new healthy community initiative founded by the Winter Park Health Foundation and Florida Hospital. The goals, then and now, are focused on making our communities the healthiest in the nation.
Since then Healthy Central Florida staff, volunteers and partners have been working together to make that vision a reality. Working on local issues and striving to make “the healthy choice the easy choice,” HCF has worked with schools, municipalities, churches and employers to establish environments and programs that support healthy choices.
The research shows 70% of deaths from chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and many cancers are preventable with lifestyle changes. The data also shows place matters – that your zip code can often predict your lifespan. People who live in “healthy places” tend to live longer. That is, people who live in places with access to full service grocery stores; walking and biking trails; safe, well-kept parks, and fresh air and safe water tend to live longer. Therefore, Healthy Central Florida has focused in large measure on creating healthy places.
Specifically, HCF focuses on policy and environmental change and on encouraging healthy behaviors in these four areas – helping people:
- Get Active
- Eat Healthy
- Be Happy
- Breathe Free (freedom from exposure to second-hand smoke)
To date, Healthy Central Florida has funded more than 40 community health projects to the tune of more than $150,000. Staff and volunteers have been involved in multiple community workshops, forums, studies and events – raising awareness and encouraging health in all policies.
More than 12,000 adults have participated in HCF-sponsored one-day, weekly or 90-day walking programs or group bike rides. HCF has also worked with schools to increase the number of children walking and biking to school.
HCF also launched Breathe Free Central Florida, a campaign to reduce exposure to second-hand smoke on outdoor restaurant patios. To date, nearly 50 restaurants have gone smoke-free on outdoor patios including Outback Steakhouse, Ravenous Pig, The Coop, Dexter’s, Cocina 214 and many more.
From a baseline study conducted by UCF in 2011, many indicators show movement in the right direction. Smoking rates are down – well below state and national averages (7.3 and 10.4% in Maitland and Winter Park, respectively), and walking and activity rates are trending upwards. HCF is clearly heading in the right direction on the journey to make Winter Park, Maitland and Eatonville the healthiest communities in the nation.