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Signs of Progress: Spotlight on Seminole County, Florida

From our friends at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation


In June, Inside Track let you know about the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s updated collection of stories and reports from a growing number of states, cities and counties that have measured declines in their childhood obesity rates.  To conclude our 7-part series, we’re excited to spotlight Seminole County, Florida this week, which has reported a 13.7% relative decline in obesity among children:

The Florida Department of Health has a straightforward, if bold, vision: for Florida to be the healthiest state in the nation. Seminole County, on the outskirts of Orlando, is doing all it can to help the state achieve that vision, creating healthier communities for its citizens along the way. In the last several years the county has made a wide variety of changes to help make sure young people in the county can grow up at a healthy weight.

  • Seminole County Public Schools creates healthy entrée options in onsite kitchens. It participates in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, providing a fresh fruit or vegetable snack to students daily along with weekly nutrition education and monthly promotions. Many schools also have gardens which host educational events, promote physical activity and use produce to make nutritional snacks.
  • The county’s WIC program actively participates in outreach activities throughout the year, helping qualifying participants enroll, and providing participants with healthy grocery shopping workshops. It also has an active breastfeeding support group, which works to increase rates of breastfeeding and continuation of breastfeeding among clients.
  • County officials have worked with Nemours Children’s Health System to distribute 5-2-1-Almost None messaging and materials in schools and rec centers throughout the county. The program encourages young people to eat five fruits or vegetables each day, have no more than two hours of screen time, get one hour of physical activity, and drink almost no sugary drinks.
  • The county has developed more than 40 miles of paved multipurpose trails, allowing residents and visitors to walk, jog, ride bicycles and roller blade safely from one side of the county to the other. These trails connect neighborhoods to schools, shopping, parks and places of business.
  • Greenwood Lakes Park, located between a middle school and a high school, installed ten new exercise stations to help residents be active. There are plans to install further equipment in other parks this year.
  • The county hosts a 4-H Healthy Kids Cooking program for youth 8-12. The classes help teach young people that healthy snacks and meals can be delicious, fast and easy.
  • The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) helps families create healthier eating practices and get more physical activity, and the program has seen success. For every $1 spent on EFNEP programming, $10.64 is saved on health care costs, and $2.48 is saved on food expenses.
  • ROCK (Reducing Obesity Among Central Fla. Kids) was launched in 2008 after the community recognized childhood obesity as a problem. ROCK helps pull together other local organizations and families to raise awareness of the challenges, share culturally appropriate messages about healthy choices and active living and provide funding for local initiatives.

Together, the county’s school system and Leisure Services Department are working to create healthier school and community environments for children and families.

“Seminole County is moving forward with fostering strong partnerships to ensure health is considered in all policies,” said Dr. Swannie Jett, Health Officer of the Florida Department of Health in Seminole County. “As a community, the more we work together and keep health at the forefront, the more we can change the behaviors, choices and environment in which people live.”

View the story, photos and more on the Robert Wood Johnson website.