HEAL SPotlight: the city of college park, Maryland
Since joining the HEAL Cities and Towns Campaign in 2014, the City of College Park has initiated healthy eating and active living (HEAL) policies, programs, and environmental design changes to bring healthier options to residents. The City’s HEAL Resolution was an opportunity to identify City-wide goals that would further the City of College Park's commitment to creating a culture of health and wellness for all residents. The resolution included the goals to: adopt a Complete Streets policy to encourage safe and active transportation; improve access to affordable and nutritious food; and, promote municipal workplace wellness through a cross-departmental, staff-run wellness committee. Since 2014, the City has since passed and enacted policies and programs to address the City’s resolution's goals and further its commitment to facilitate healthy behavior change.
The City’s Department of Planning, Community and Development has been a driving force behind healthy design changes and active transportation infrastructure improvements. Steven Beavers, the Community Development Coordinator for the City of College Park, has helped implement many of the changes and environmental design initiatives the City outlined in their HEAL Resolution. One of the City’s most successful initiatives has been the launch of a City-wide bikeshare program. Since the bikeshare program launched in May 2016, The City of College Park has added 130 bikes at 20 bike stations throughout the City. Mr. Beavers sees this project as an important tool to change residents’ behavior and inspire a more active and livable community environment. “The bikeshare program really gives people another option. Instead of saying ‘oh I’ll just go jump in my car and go grab lunch somewhere, they now have the option of taking a bike…. It helps build health, wellness, and the economy” commented Mr. Beavers. The bikeshare program and bike infrastructure changes are supported by development and zoning guidelines that require new development projects to implement sidewalk expansion and contribute to new bike infrastructure and funding for the City's bikeshare program.
The City of College Park addresses its goal of improving access to local and healthy food options by expanding community gardens and farmers markets. The City has established two community gardens where residents and community members can grow their own food. The City of College Park also seeks to improve access to locally-grown produce through the four farmers markets located in the City.
City staff have taken leadership in developing an employee wellness committee, managed by the Human Resources Direct and Human Resources Assistant, which has launched multiple wellness programs and initiatives. The City of College Park holds an annual Health Fair where employees can receive flu shots, blood tests, confidential STD testing, balance testing, dietary consultation, and other wellness resources. To encourage and support staff being physically active, the City has launched a Wellness Reimbursement program to reduce costs for fitness related activities and equipment and has facilitated lunchtime fitness lessons where employees can practice yoga, Pilates, Zumba, boxing, and strength classes. The committee ensures health stays at the top of employees' minds and inboxes and sends staff emails regarding wellness topics and resources.
These policies and practices have furthered the City’s goals of improving the health and wellness for all residents. The goals outlined in the City’s resolution and its cross-departmental collaborative approach to implementation have helped the City of College Park achieve wide-reaching HEAL policies and practices with significant achievements in each of the HEAL Campaign’s three focuses—healthy foods, active communities, and workplace wellness.