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DHSS Press Release

Rita Landgraf, Secretary
Jill Fredel, Director of Communications
302-255-9047, Pager 302-357-7498
Email: jill.fredel@delaware.gov

Date: May 21, 2014


DOVER, DE (May 20, 2014) - For championing the health and well-being of their communities, five Delaware municipalities tonight received the Delaware Recognition for Community Health Promotion from Governor Jack Markell. The ceremony was held at the Sewell C. Biggs Museum in downtown Dover.

The Governor's Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and the Delaware Coalition for Healthy Eating and Active Living (DE HEAL) recognized the cities of Dover, Newark and Seaford and the towns of Fenwick Island and Smyrna.

"By focusing on the importance of wellness, we can make great strides in preventing chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and obesity," said Governor Jack Markell. "Healthy communities play a vital role by promoting healthy behaviors such as physical activity, healthy eating, and avoiding tobacco, and they help ensure people with limited mobility and disabilities receive needed services."

"These municipalities set fine examples of engaging community members to lead healthier lifestyles," said Rita Landgraf, secretary of Delaware Health and Social Services (DHSS). "Nearly two-thirds of Delaware adults and more than a third of Delaware's children have an unhealthy weight, and the state's diabetes incidence rate is also rising."

Municipal applications were scored based on self-reported assessments of efforts to enhance access to services, encourage positive behavioral changes and improve community health. Healthy efforts demonstrate effective planning and implementing best practices and/or creative and visionary programs to improve physical activity, nutrition/healthy eating, tobacco-free lifestyles, healthy environments and healthy lifestyles and to integrate the needs of individuals with limited mobility and disabilities in neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.

"People's health is impacted by much more than just a regular visit to the doctor. For every dollar spent on preventing chronic disease, we save $5.60 in health care costs," said Dr. Karyl Rattay, director of Delaware Division of Public Health. "Under the leadership of these communities, Delaware is building a truly healthy infrastructure that will benefit the state for years to come."

City of Newark (Gold Level)

The City of Newark's Comprehensive Development Plan promotes a specific vision of Newark as a "Healthy and Active Community" by providing "safe infrastructure and amenities to allow opportunities for a healthy and active lifestyle." The Newark Bike Committee, University of Delaware, Parks and Recreation and the City Manager's Office are developing active living programs and safer and more accessible walking and biking trails and paths. The City affirmed its commitment to creating non-motorized transportation connectivity by pursuing the development of sharrow roads (roads shared by motorized and non-motorized vehicles), and by passing anti-idling legislation.

In 2013, the City completed the Pomeroy Rail Trail and began the Curtis Mill project, designed to create and maintain more passive, open walking space in the community. The Newark City Council adopted the 2014 Newark Bicycle Plan that uses an approach modeled on the League of American Bicyclists' "Bicycle Friendly Community" program. New cycling initiatives include bike safety checks and free helmets for residents, and the Newark Bike Project that upgrades and re-purposes old bikes. The City is reevaluating its subdivision regulations so more bike racks can be installed.

Also in 2013, the City of Newark launched its Healthy Newark Initiatives, including the Main Street Mile, the Nefaski Walk, a triathlon, a 5K Turkey Trot, and under-500 calorie menu options. Its Parks and Recreation office completed a new skate park. At the start of 2014, the Parks and Recreation office also promoted the State of Delaware's "31 Days to a Healthier You" challenge, launched by Governor Markell at a Newark fitness center.

The Christina School District has a district-wide wellness policy and more than 75 percent of its schools are implementing the Healthier U.S. Schools Challenge. Students are encouraged to participate in city fitness events with their parents and Walk to School Day. The district established criteria for the availability of healthy food and drink options at school-sponsored events, parties and fundraisers. Downtown Newark provides housing, employment, services and entertainment within walking and bicycling distance of the University of Delaware's main campus. One downtown business, the Newark Natural Foods Co-op, provides local, organic and all-natural food choices and hosts weekly farmers markets during the summer. A Harvest Festival and Community Day promotes local farmers.

City of Dover (Bronze Level)

The City of Dover's Comprehensive Plan and city ordinances create the policies that improve bicycle and pedestrian friendliness while ensuring that high density residential development is located in areas within walking distance to goods and services. The City's development review process includes bike lanes, sidewalks/multi-use paths, and bicycle parking to support non-motorized transportation in projects, all in close coordination with the Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT). The City's Zoning Ordinance and plan review process include landscaping and architectural review standards that contribute to pleasant environments for pedestrians and cyclists.

The City applied for the Bicycle Friendly Community designation through the League of American Bicyclists and received honorable mention in fall 2013. The feedback is being used to improve Dover's bicycle and pedestrian network and programming. The Kent County Regional Bike Plan began a regional bikeability assessment and those findings will be used in the Bicycle Plan for Dover, under development by the Dover/Kent County Metropolitan Planning Organization. A Bicycle and Pedestrian Subcommittee advises staff and the Safety Advisory and Transportation Committee about how to improve bicycle and pedestrian amenities.

The second phase of the Capital City Trail, an off-road path system, is nearing construction. It will connect Silver Lake Park and downtown Dover with the Isaacs Branch Trail that begins along Public Safety Boulevard. The Capital School District worked with DelDOT and the City to ensure that students can safely walk to the new Dover High School when it opens in August 2014. The City successfully advocated with the Dover City Council and legislators for critical sidewalk segments and a pedestrian-activated signal at Route 8.

In the summer of 2013, the City and the Downtown Dover Partnership hosted a successful farmer's market which will continue in 2014. Also in the past year, the City of Dover began offering more lunchtime and early-morning fitness classes. A new fitness pass program allows flexibility for people who want to attend classes without registering for a specific one. To improve physical activity among youth, the City's Sports Coordinator and the Dover High School Athletic Director are collaborating more often on sports clinics and camps, including a wrestling clinic for elementary school students and a football clinic for middle school districts, both of which were very popular. The City is working with the YMCA of Dover to develop clinics for novice cyclists and joggers. It is also reaching out to other partner recreation providers, including Delaware Senior Olympics, Delaware Special Olympics, Delaware State University and Wesley College, through bi-monthly meetings. Through a partnership with Delaware Senior Olympics, the City developed an indoor drop-in softball program for seniors.

Town of Smyrna (Bronze Level)

Smyrna's Comprehensive Plan recommends compact forms of development with a mixture of uses, constructed close to the street, that encourage walkability and interconnectivity of compatible, adjacent uses. Recent zoning amendments create an attractive streetscape that provides visual interest and offers a pleasing, pedestrian-friendly environment to uphold Smyrna's walkable downtown. The Town is adopting a new commercial zoning district that reflects these same themes. The Town seeks state and/or federal funding to construct a new sidewalk system that connects neighborhoods while providing a stable, unobstructed surface for residents, especially those with mobility challenges.

Along the newly constructed 1.5-mile Bicycle and Walking Trail, located behind the Smyrna High School, the Town is installing new energy-efficient LED lighting. This improvement enhances safety and makes the trail more welcoming during evening hours. Like other Town facilities, the trail is smoke-free.

For the students of North Smyrna Elementary School, the Town, DelDOT and the Smyrna School District made capital improvements such as new sidewalks and crosswalks. Physical Education teachers throughout the district involved all students in healthy walks around the schools and taught students how to use pedometers. Smyrna's Rt. 13 Corridor Plan promotes greater connectivity, walkability and sharrows/bike lanes to encourage physical activity instead of only traditional vehicular travel. In partnership with DelDOT, the Town had one of its busiest roadways, Carter Road, equipped with bike lanes.

In addition, 2014 marks the third consecutive year of the Smyrna Farmers Market, a partnership between the Town and the Smyrna Downtown Renaissance Association. The Smyrna School District actively participates in the State's Farm to School Program and incorporates local agricultural products into school menus. The Town is conversing with Kent County government and others about the development of community gardens and food innovation districts. The Smyrna Public Library, owned and operated by the Town, partners with Delaware State University's and the University of Delaware's Cooperative Extension programs to provide classes about healthy eating habits, preparing nutritious meals and stretching the family food budget to include fresh, healthy selections.

City of Seaford (Bronze Level)

In the past year, the Seaford community established the Seaford Walks program. Walking Club leaders set the dates, times and locations for when their clubs will walk and publicize on the city's website and through social media. Club leaders agree to walk the same course each week or to rotate courses. Active participants are entered in a weekly drawing for various prizes.

Seaford has established three walking trails: the Soroptimist Park Walking Trail, the Jays Nest Trail (a sidewalk loop at the Sports Complex) and the Hooper's Landing Fitness Trail, installed in 2014 around the municipal golf course at the Sports Complex. The Hooper's Landing Trail is well-marked and promoted for use as a walking and running 5K venue. Through the Safe Routes to School Initiative, the Seaford Middle School has allocated funding for the consulting, design and construction of safer walking paths for students going to and from school.

During the summer, the Seaford community visits the popular Western Sussex Farmers Market. The Sussex County Health Promotion Coalition also provided an organic farmers market at the Anna C. Shipley State Service Center to those who may not otherwise have access. For low-income families, the Coalition provides farm-to-table meals with healthy dollar dinners.

The City is one of the five founding members of the Western Sussex Worksite Wellness Program. Businesses can join this program at a low cost and promote and provide healthy living options for their employees. The employee pays nothing to participate and their spouses can participate at a low cost. The Sussex County Health Promotion Coalition, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital and La Red Health Center are very proactive in increasing and improving healthy lifestyles within the Seaford community.

Town of Fenwick Island (Special Recognition for a Small Municipality) Before the 2013 summer season, the Town of Fenwick Island passed a no-smoking ordinance for its two parks and its one-mile public beach, which allows activities including swimming, body surfing, running, flying kites, and playing volleyball. The Environmental Committee meets every other month to discuss environmental policies that promote healthy lifestyles and reduce pollution. The Ad Hoc Parks Committee planned Cannon Street Park and secured the park grant for its development, which includes a basketball court and a kayak launch that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). For beach accessibility, the Town approved the allocation of over $100,000 for ADA beach mats, called Mobimats, on every dune crossing. The Fenwick Island Beach Patrol purchased and maintains three ADA beach wheelchairs for access to the beach and ocean.

Walkability is an important town feature. The Town of Fenwick Island's Comprehensive Plan, Code and municipal ordinances encourage interconnectivity. The Plan recommends the installation of sidewalks along Route 1 to increase pedestrian safety. A 2002 Pedestrian Plan assists the Town and DelDOT to identify feasible Route 1 crossing solutions for pedestrians and bicyclists. The Town is studying the feasibility of requiring commercial property owners to install sidewalks for new construction and major renovation projects. Town officials adopted a Parks Zone designed for parks and recreation.

Local vendors sponsor tours and lessons for a variety of water sports, such as surfing, kayaking and paddle boarding. The Fenwick Island Fishing Club sponsors fishing expeditions for adults and children. Children can register for basic or advanced junior lifeguarding, sponsored by the Fenwick Island Beach Patrol. At a Bike Safety Day, the Sussex Cyclists, the Fenwick Island Police Department, town staff and community volunteers distributed bike helmets and lights and safety literature. Another volunteer-run activity is the Fenwick Island Turkey Trot, held every Thanksgiving morning.

The Town sponsors three Fenwick Flicks (movie nights on the beach) with the Bethany-Fenwick Chamber of Commerce, where tobacco-free information is given to movie-goers. A Farmers Market along Route 1 is open every Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. during the summer season.

For more information call the Delaware Division of Public Health's Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Section: 302-744-1010.

The event was co-sponsored by the Governor's Council on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, DE HEAL, Delaware Greenways, the University of Delaware's Institute for Public Administration, Nemours Health and Prevention Services, DHSS, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control, and the Delaware Office of State Planning Coordination.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations. DPH, a division of DHSS, urges Delawareans to make healthier choices with the 5-2-1 Almost None campaign: eat 5 or more fruits and vegetables each day, have no more than 2 hours of recreational screen time each day (includes TV, computer, gaming), get 1 or more hours of physical activity each day, and drink almost no sugary beverages.

Delaware Health and Social Services is committed to improving the quality of the lives of Delaware's citizens by promoting health and well-being, fostering self-sufficiency, and protecting vulnerable populations.