At Delaware’s Recognition for Community Health Promotion on June 11, seven communities were recognized for championing the health and well-being of their residents, including Bethany Beach, which received an honorable mention in the new promotion from the State of Delaware.
The municipalities recognized last week were: Middletown (gold), Seaford (silver), Newark, New Castle and Wilmington (bronze), and Bethany Beach and Dover (honorable mention).
“The progress these municipalities are making toward healthier communities is important because of the challenges we face in Delaware and across the country,” including an obesity epidemic, sedentary lifestyles and rising rates for such chronic diseases as diabetes, said DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf. The awards were coordinated and presented by the Governor’s Council on Health Promotion & Disease Prevention at Delaware State University.
Communities across Delaware were encouraged to submit applications for the honors, which were then reviewed by a subcommittee of the Governor’s Council on Health Promotion & Disease Prevention and awarded different degrees of recognition based on their work to promote the health of their residents:
• Gold: A model community with tremendous support and opportunities across all key environments aimed at improving the overall health of its respective community members. Great potential to share lessons and knowledge with other communities.
• Silver: Outstanding achievements in support and opportunities across all key environments aimed at improving the overall health of its respective community members; potential still exists to bring about more supports.
• Bronze: Significant progress aimed at improving the overall health of its respective community members; gaps in some areas suggest potential for future achievements.
• Honorable Mention: Demonstrated efforts aimed at improving the overall health of its respective community members; greater gaps suggest ample potential to strengthen local supports.
Areas of focus include Healthy Foods, focusing on providing greater access to healthy foods; Complete Streets, focusing on multimodal transportation; Comprehensive Plan Assessment, including writing or updating a community’s comprehensive plan to include public health objectives; Health-Impact Assessment, how existing or planned land use, community design and transportation policies affect the public’s health; Smoke-Free Delaware, policies that protect residents’ health through creation of more smoke-free public spaces; and Walkability Assessment.
“Community achievements in the areas of policy, systems and environmental changes have far-reaching implications by serving as models that can be replicated nationwide to improve the health of young people, adults, families and under-served populations,” officials said in materials for applicants, quoting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009.
The program encourages communities to improve the health of their people by: increasing physical activity; reducing injury; increasing access to healthy food; improving air and water quality; minimizing the effects of climate change; decreasing mental health stresses; strengthening the social fabric of the community; and providing fair access to livelihood, education and resources.
Bethany Beach has in recent years banned smoking on its beach and boardwalk and in town parks and supported one of the area’s first farmers’ markets, held each Sunday morning during the summer in downtown Bethany.
Along with its beachfront recreation options and summer exercise concessions, the town’s nature center offers walking trails, while the planned development of a larger State-controlled trail system in southern Delaware would take walkers and cyclists along the Assawoman Canal in Bethany Beach.
A proposal to create a fitness park and trail on the undeveloped Maryland Avenue Extended was, however, rejected last spring by a vocal segment of the population, who raised safety and liability concerns, as well as concerns about potential impacts on neighboring residents.