County’s Health Officer points to numerous county policies that have contributed to the recognition
For the third consecutive year, Sarasota County has been recognized as a Healthy Weight Community Champion, Chuck Henry, the Health Officer of the Department of Health in Sarasota County, has announced.
During the March 8 County Commission meeting in Venice, Henry congratulated the County Commission for the achievement, pointing out that of the 410 cities, towns and villages and the 67 counties in the state of Florida, only 80 were accorded the honor this year.
He added that Sarasota County has won the distinction annually since the recognition began.
The county helps encourage healthful lifestyles in a number of ways, Henry continued. For example, staff members of its Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department manage more than 150 parks and natural trails. “They also think ahead and plan for future expansions of bike and pedestrian infrastructure that would enhance connectivity and improve local amenities, and open new green spaces,” Henry pointed out.
When Henry introduced Carolyn Brown, director of the county’s Parks, Recreation and Natural Resources Department, for a photo op after his remarks, she drew chuckles by telling him her division’s motto: “It starts in the parks.”
By working closely with the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Transit Administration, he added, the county also strives to improve biking, walking and riding opportunities.
Furthermore, Henry noted, Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) “provides access to places that support healthy lifestyle choices,” including farmers’ markets and community gardens. “Sarasota County has community gardens in parks and at schools,” Henry pointed out.
Additionally, the Healthy Sarasota County branding initiative, encourages businesses and workplaces to create healthful policies for employees, he said, and the Healthy Childcare initiative encourages healthful eating and physical activity for young people through the “5-2-1-0” program. The latter refers to a goal of eating five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, limiting screen time (TVs, computers and other devices) to two hours each day, trying to do one hour of physical activity or exercise on a daily basis and striving to avoid consumption of sugary drinks, he explained.
Late last year, the Sarasota County School District won the Gold Level award from Florida Action for Healthy Kids in recognition of its efforts to promote good health for students and staff, Henry continued. Moreover, the district’s Food and Nutrition Department was the first in the state to hit the 100-percent mark on its score through that program, Henry added.
“It’s really my honor and pleasure on behalf of the Department of Health to commend you for your support of healthy lifestyles,” Henry told the commissioners.
In a news release, County Administrator Tom Harmer said, “This recognition illustrates our team’s continuing efforts to educate the people of Sarasota County on healthy living.”
A list of all the 80 Champion Communities and best practices is at HealthiestWeightFlorida.com/recognition, a county news release notes.
Between August and December 2015, county and local governments were invited to submit best-practice policies they have implemented in their jurisdictions over the year, the release explains. “City and county governments submitted evidence-based policies [designed] to increase physical activity and improve nutrition,” it notes.
“Healthiest Weight Florida is a public-private collaboration bringing together state agencies, not-for-profit organizations, businesses and entire communities” to help Florida’s children and adults make consistent, informed choices about healthful eating and active living, the release says.
For information about DOH-Sarasota, go to www.sarasotahealth.org or call 861-2900.