Healthy Harford organizers are reminding residents to mark their calendars to participate in this year's Healthy Harford Day Saturday, Oct. 13 from 8 to 11 a.m.
Held in conjunction with the Bel Air Farmers Market at the corner of Hays and Thomas Streets in Bel Air, the event is intended to raise awareness about Healthy Harford, its mission to help make Harford County the healthiest community in Maryland and progressive community health initiatives designed to reach that goal.
Emceed by radio personality and organic farmer Steve Rouse, the affair will offer a full schedule of free yoga, Pilates and Zumba classes and a cooking demonstration by Open Door Café. Other fun family activities include valet bike parking, gardening tips, bounce houses, free bike helmets and a bike rodeo where children who bring their bikes can learn street safety. At 10 a.m. Councilwoman Mary Ann Lisanti will provide an update on the County's Obesity Task Force and Harford County Executive David Craig and Bel Air Town Councilman Dr. Rob Reier will present official proclamations for Healthy Harford Day.
Healthy Harford, the Healthy Communities Initiative of Harford County, is a non-profit 501c3 whose coalition is comprised of local government agencies, businesses, non-profits and citizens dedicated to improving the health of Harford County residents.
Founded in 1993 by community leaders from the Harford County Health Department, Harford County Government and Upper Chesapeake Health, Healthy Harford strives "to make the healthy choice the easy choice in Harford County." Data from Community Health Assessment Project (CHAP) surveys Healthy Harford has conducted every five years since 1996 shows that, as a community, Harford doesn't exercise enough, doesn't eat enough fruits and vegetables, that almost two-thirds of its adults are overweight or obese, that its smoking rates are higher than the state average and residents are paying for all of this with their health. Through the Healthy Harford community partnership, Harford County residents can work toward helping reverse these trends.
Health Officer Susan Kelly states, "It is the organization's position that healthy lifestyle choices are an individual decision, but that, as a community, we can support these choices through more walkable and bikeable communities, school and business wellness programs and increased education and outreach for a healthier Harford County."
Among other health initiatives under way, the Harford County Health Department launched its Local Health Improvement Process (LHIP) about a year ago for purposes of identifying the county's most critical health needs and targeting them for action. The LHIP is part of a larger Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene statewide initiative that addresses 39 key health objectives, including those promoting healthy babies, healthy social environments, safe physical environments, infectious disease prevention, chronic disease prevention and access to health care.
On Oct. 4, Harford County's Local Health Improvement Coalition, consisting of 54 community members and key stakeholders representing organizations from across the county, assembled to review the progress made in Harford's Local Health Improvement Process since the group first convened in December 2011. This meeting, which began with a presentation by Dr. Madeline Shea of the Department and Health and Mental Hygiene, provided an opportunity for coalition members to showcase their work and offer a preview of next steps. The conference occurred two days after Kelly's final Obesity Task Force presentation to the Harford County Council meeting as the Board of Health, where a recommendation was made to establish a Wellness Commission to sustain initiatives evolving out of the Council's Obesity Resolution.
In addition to its commitment targeting obesity, the coalition has spent the past year developing strategies to address two additional health priorities identified in the county: tobacco use and behavioral health. To accomplish this work, the coalition created working groups, including the Obesity Task Force's Access to Healthy Food Subcommittee, Built Environment Subcommittee and Community Engagement Subcommittee, as well as the Behavioral Health Workgroup and Tobacco Workgroup, all of which have met regularly over the 10 months. Each group with its specific focus shares the common, overarching goal of comprehensive community health improvement.
Also, the Harford County Health Department formally released the Community Health Assessment (CHA) and the Community Health Improvement Plan (CHIP) to the coalition in an effort to receive stakeholder feedback and their support in releasing these documents to the community for comment. These documents spell out local health needs and capture the coalition's action plan for addressing these issues. Harford County residents are encouraged to voice their opinion about these plans and about the quality of life in Harford County by taking a brief online survey available at: http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com. As a thank you for completing the survey, one respondent will be selected to win a $50 gift card.
For more information about Healthy Harford or Healthy Harford Day, visit http://www.healthyharford.org. To learn more about the Harford County Local Health Improvement Process or to review Local Health Improvement Coalition draft documents, visit the Harford County Health Department website at http://www.harfordcountyhealth.com. To complete the online survey, visit http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/FYLSM7P or access it through the health department website.