heal spotlight: Hopewell, Virginia
The City of Hopewell joined the HEAL Cities & Town’s Campaign through the leadership of the HEAL Hopewell Alliance, an initiative of the Community Action Network formed by the Virginia Department of Health's Crater Health District. Through the development of a strategic plan to serve the health and wellbeing of the community, the HEAL Hopewell Alliance encouraged the City to pass a HEAL Resolution and join the Campaign in 2015. “In Hopewell, the HEAL Hopewell Alliance has worked diligently to pursue opportunities to make Hopewell a healthier place to live and work,” commented Aaron Reidmiller, Director of Hopewell Recreation and Parks. “The group is made up of a variety of stakeholders who all bring a particular set of skills or resources to the table. Through creative partnerships, the city is able to use those skills and resources to pursue projects and support policies that promote healthy lifestyles.”
In October 2018, the HEAL Campaign awarded Hopewell Platinum level recognition. The City received this recognition after achieving Gold status in 2017 for their achievements accomplishing their resolution goals in three priority areas: Promote physical activity through improvements in the physical environment; Promote access to healthy food in under resourced areas; and increase physical activity opportunities throughout the City. The goals were accomplished through City-wide programs and activities to get Hopewell residents eating better and moving more. This included a City Park Nature Program park renovation project to highlight the city’s outdoor amenities and redesign the water front area. With the support of a charitable donation from the American Water and Charitable Foundation, the community took an interdepartmental and community-based approach to implement this project and stretch their limited funding. Through this program the City has moved forward with additional park renovation projects to improve existing parks and increase their usage.
Efforts to increase healthy food access were spurred through a partnership with the Hopewell Girl Scout Troop. With the troop's help, the City established a community garden that donates fresh food to the Hopewell Food Pantry. The Fitness Warriors program, a program offered through a successful partnership with Richmond Sports Backers, is working to increase opportunities for residents to be physically active. The program offers free fitness instructor training programs to the community with the understanding that instructors will adopt a "pay it forward" approach by offering their own free classes in under resourced areas in the community.
Hopewell’s Platinum status acknowledges the City’s achievements to both pass and implement policies and programs as well as their efforts to integrate HEAL across government departments. Lead by the Department of Recreation and Parks, Hopewell’s HEAL Campaign is supported by the Department of Public Works, Department of Planning and Development, Department of Engineering, and the City Manager's Office. The City has engaged staff throughout City departments through a newly completed Comprehensive Plan that includes a section on community health and outlines strategies towards accomplishing HEAL strategy areas. The plan has inspired the establishment of new outdoor fitness spaces and spurred discussions around Complete Streets. In addition, through support from the Departments of Recreation and Parks, Planning and Development, and Engineering, the City is developing the Hopewell Riverwalk project, an initiative to develop a recreational area along the Appomattox River waterfront. Many of these initiatives are monitored and evaluated through surveys, citizen discussions, public meetings, program participation, and quantitative analysis. This has enabled the City to continue to guide new projects and initiatives through community and staff feedback.
These initiatives highlight Hopewell's HEAL program's successful community involvement, partnerships, and interdepartmental approach, which are essential ingredients to advancing the health and wellbeing of any community. “The City of Hopewell is fortunate to be recognized as a Healthy Eating, Active Living City," said Mr. Reidmiller after the City was recognized at the 2017 VML Conference. “The HEAL Campaign has led to a variety of new partnerships and initiatives geared towards improving overall health for the citizens of Hopewell. We are excited to have achieved some tangible results as a direct reflection of the work of the HEAL Campaign and hope to accomplish a great deal more in coming years.”
More information on Hopewell’s HEAL initiative can be accessed through the Public Health Advocates' HEAL Cities Campaign webinar: “How HEAL Cities Are Advancing Health for All in Parks and Recreation.”