Three Area Communities Recognized as Healthy Community Champions

Alachua County, the City of Newberry, and the City of Hawthorne are among 33 communities to be recognized by the Florida Department of Health as 2019 Healthy Community Champions for taking a Health in All Policies approach to comprehensive planning. Health in All Policies, as defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a collaborative approach that integrates and articulates health considerations into policymaking across sectors to improve the health of all communities and people.

Florida’s county and municipal governments play an important role in improving the health of all communities and people. Local governments have implemented a variety of policies that have been shown to increase physical activity and improve nutrition. Between June and August 2019, local governments were invited to submit best practices to demonstrate how they met the Healthy Community Champion criteria.

“This recognition demonstrates the commitment that these communities have to improving the health of their residents,” stated Florida Department of Health in Alachua County Administrator Paul Myers.”Their efforts to implement policies for residents to improve health are an important part of creating healthy environments throughout Alachua County.”

The Healthy Community Champions provides an opportunity to highlight local governments that have focused on improving the built environment. The department defines the Built Environment as the places where people live, work, and play (homes, buildings, streets, open spaces, and infrastructure), food environments (supermarkets, corner stores, farmer’s markets, and food pantries), and other environmental influences (indoor/outdoor air and water quality, noise pollution, and environmental toxins).

The built environment can influence residents’ physical, nutritional, and mental health within their community through policies designed to provide adequate access to physical activity opportunities, adequate access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate foods, access to health care and a reduction or elimination of environmental health risks to the community. Through communities working to implement policies within the built environment, a greater level of social connectedness can be experienced. As defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, social connectedness is achieved through strong formal relationships between organizations and support services designed to help better ensure that services are delivered and promote a person’s sense of well-being.

Alachua County 

The Alachua County Comprehensive Plan includes a Community Health Element (CHE), which focuses on Health in All Policies. The policies in the CHE outline the processes for engaging local health agencies in planning policies and development standards that address health. Complete Streets are addressed in the Transportation Mobility Element (TME). The policies in the TME require interconnected networks, standards that promote walking and biking, connectivity index standards to ensure adequate internal connections and cross-access for all modes, a pedestrian and bicycle circulation system, and strategies to increase safety for all modes with a particular focus on bicycles and pedestrians. In 2010, the county adopted a set of land use, transportation, and capital planning amendments known as the Mobility Plan, which includes revised multi-modal levels of service for transportation. The new levels of service informed the adoption of a multimodal Capital Improvements Element for transportation that focused on providing parallel capacity in the roadway network, a bicycle and pedestrian network on existing roadway corridors, and new transit service once sufficient density is present in the Urban Cluster to support it. The Community Health Improvement Plan addresses improved access to healthy foods and active living. For instance, the county collaborates with the Healthy Communities Group, a multi-agency collaboration, to address the goals to improve community wellness. 

City of Hawthorne 

The City of Hawthorne Comprehensive Plan requires that all new development have a recreation component. The city has three parks that are accessible to low-income neighborhoods: Lindsey Phillips Park, Hawthorne Athletic Park, and Little Orange Creek Nature Park and Preserve. Little Orange Creek Nature Park and Preserve has a playground, exercise equipment, kayak launch pad, and more than 2 miles of trails. To address food insecurity, the city supports the Hawthorne Area Resource Center, a local food bank and social group, which provides free food daily Monday – Friday from 9am – 2pm. The city also allows community gardens; for example, there is a faith-based community garden that is accessed by the elementary school for teaching purposes. 

City of Newberry 

The City of Newberry’s comprehensive plan and development code promote increased access to physical activity opportunities for all persons regardless of age or physical ability, including in

low-income or under-served areas. Additionally, the City of Newberry Land Development Code includes provisions for access to multi-modal transportation systems within Planned Development (PD) zoning districts; newly approved developments are reviewed for the inclusion of bike facilities and multi-use paths.  The city also maintains its system of 4 local neighborhood and 6 regional parks. Newberry has adopted Mixed-Use and PD regulations, which are implemented in accordance with, and are supported by, transportation-related policies in the City of Newberry Comprehensive Plan. Newberry supports and promotes farmers markets, farm/produce stands, mobile markets, and community gardens as venues for healthy foods in practice and through adopted comprehensive plan policies and development regulations. The city has also adopted an ordinance that allows and encourages community gardens in residential areas and other districts. 

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