heal spotlight: Rock Hall, Maryland
The Town of Rock Hall joined the HEAL Campaign in 2015 through the leadership and encouragement of Mayor Brian Jones and the Town Council. Shortly after joining the HEAL Campaign, the Town was awarded a HEAL Mini-Grant to help launch goals outlined in the Town’s HEAL Resolution. This unique opportunity allowed Rock Hall, and a few other HEAL cities and towns, to receive HEAL support funding to help implement new projects or sustain existing initiatives. Rock Hall used their award funding to conduct a targeted food assessment survey for Town residents. Survey results helped illustrate some of the challenges residents face while pursuing healthier diets. In addition, the survey also encouraged participants to set specific and measurable goals to improve food habits. Responses included goals to reduce soda consumption, eat more fruits and vegetables, and reduce salt and sugar intake. Using the survey results, a newly formed Wellness Committee developed recommendations and strategies to help residents pursue healthy eating and active living goals. One of the Committee’s first initiatives was to launch a Town Wellness Fair at the Rock Hall Volunteer Fire Company. The fair, organized by the Committee and spearheaded by Debra Woodruff-Capper, consisted of multiple agencies and community groups including citizen advocates, educators, and health practitioners providing onsite health screenings.
The Town has continued pursuing healthy eating and active living goals through additional grant funding and resources secured by Meg Perry, the Town’s Main Street Manager and Grant Writer. The Town was recently awarded a Safe Routes to School Grant to launch a walking program where students and staff walk one-mile around the Rock Hall Elementary School before the start of the school day. Students are encouraged to participate in the program through grant-funded rewards, such as safety vests or walking program related supplies. The Town has also leveraged funding from the Maryland Department of Natural Resource’s Community Parks and Playground program to install new playground equipment at one of the local parks. Further support has been allocated to an engineering study to regrade the area around the Civic Center that is prone to flooding. The Town hopes to complete this study soon and move forward with further park improvements such as developing a walking trail and exercise stations for residents and employees to use to stay active throughout the workday.
In June 2018, the Town of Rock Hall achieved Gold HEAL recognition status for the Town’s progress launching the Wellness Committee, implementing the morning walking program, and constructing new playground equipment. Through this progress, the Town continues to find new ways to help community members find approachable ways to eat healthy and stay active. “We’re happy with the progress and happy to see these programs taking off,” said Mayor Jones. It’s great to see people using the equipment and having families attending the health fair… we’ve seen an increase in activities such as walking and biking.”