Sarasota County named Healthy Weight Community Champion for fourth consecutive year

County has won the recognition each year since the award was created, health official says

Chuck Henry, the county’s health official (fourth from left) recognizes Sarasota County as a Florida Healthy Weight Community Champion, making a presentation during the March 21 County Commission meeting. He is flanked by (from left) Commission Chair Paul Caragiulo, Commissioner Nancy Detert, Hilary Woodcum of the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County, County Administrator Tom Harmer and Commissioners Mike Moran, Charles Hines and Alan Maio. Photo from Sarasota County via Twitter

For the fourth consecutive year, Sarasota County has been recognized by the Florida Department of Health as a Healthy Weight Community Champion, the county has announced.

“Sarasota County was one of 98 communities throughout the state to achieve this distinction this year,” a news release says.

During the formal presentation of the award to the County Commission on March 21, Chuck Henry, the Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County health officer, pointed out that the award has “only existed in the state for four years, so we’ve been successful every year [in the county].”

“This is one of the wonderful times that we actually get to recognize the county,” he added. The recognition is accorded to cities as well as counties, he said.

In the news release, Henry pointed out, “Local governments help to shape our communities through policies and an environment which promotes healthy living. Sarasota County has dedicated 55,000 acres to parks, natural trails and reserves, contributing to a well-connected system of sidewalks, bike paths and trails for area residents and visitors to enjoy.” The county’s 160 parks have all sorts of amenities that encourage activity — including basketball and tennis courts and baseball and softball fields, he noted during the March 21 presentation, which was part of a regular County Commission meeting.

“I also want to recognize the county for investing in programs reinforcing good nutrition through community gardens, farmers markets and mobile vendors providing fresh produce,” he said in the news release, adding during the formal presentation that that action is a key factor in the county’s continuing to win this recognition.

Speaking on behalf of the commission and county employees, County Administrator Tom Harmer pointed out the Citizen Opinion Survey conducted of county residents last year showed 97% rated their quality of life as good or excellent. That sentiment and the Healthy Weight Champion Community recognition, Harmer continued, tie in with the county’s recent recognition by U.S. News & World Report as the best place to live in Florida and with the 2017 TripAdvisor Award to Siesta Key Beach as the No. 1 beach in the United States.

Image courtesy Florida Department of Health in Sarasota County

A list of all the 80 Champion Communities and best practices is at

“County and local governments were invited to submit best-practice policies they have implemented in their jurisdictions over the past year” in an effort to win recognition as Community Champions, the news release explains.

The Community Champions program is part of the Florida Department of Health’s Healthiest Weight Florida initiative, “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 healthy eating and active living,” the news release says.