OCEAN CITY – The Town of Ocean City has reached the gold level in its Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) Cities & Towns Campaign by achieving three resolution goals.
Last week, the Recreation and Parks Department announced that Ocean City was recognized at the Maryland Municipal League conference last month as a member of the HEAL Leaders Club for reaching the gold level.
Recreation Superintendent Kate Gaddis said the town implemented three initiatives that address worksite wellness, healthy vending and accessible bike and walking trails last year and have since developed successful programs to meet those initiatives.
“When we applied for the HEAL Cities & Towns designation, we had to identify three areas to improve healthy eating and active living,” she said. “Because we made progress on all three, we were able to apply for gold status.”
Gaddis said two of the programs that fall under her department give town employees, residents and visitors information to make healthier choices.
The first program, called Lunch and Learns, began in November of last year and offered employees the chance to attend health-related sessions during their lunch breaks.
Gaddis said the town partnered with Salisbury University, Atlantic General Hospital, the Worcester County Health Department and other agencies and businesses to offer lessons on diabetes, healthy lunches, good posture, foot care and the like.
The second program, piloted at Northside Park, began in December and gives visitors color-coded snack options through a new vending machine funded by the Ocean City Recreation Boosters and Worcester County Health Department.
The last initiative, she said, utilized grant money from a Maryland Department of Transportation Bikeways Program to install a bike route along Sinepuxent Avenue.
Gaddis said the town has measured the success of its wellness programs through feedback and attendance.
“We had good feedback from it and positive feelings,” she said. “I think people feel positive we are making forward progress in this area.”
Gaddis said the town will continue to expand its bike paths, vending program and Lunch and Learn series in the future, but added that resort officials will soon take steps to achieving platinum status, the highest and final level. In order to do so, Gaddis said Ocean City will have to provide evidence of how the programs have been integrated into the town’s culture or everyday life.
“We are in the process of doing that now,” she said. “That is something we are reaching for in the future.”
Gaddis said programs developed for the HEAL Campaign offer citizens tools to be socially and physically active.
“The town feels this is a priority,” she said, “and we want to do our part to make it that.”
The HEAL Cities & Towns Campaign is part of a national initiative to promote healthier food options and physical activity.
The Institute for Public Health started the program with funding from the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of the Mid-Atlantic States and a partnership with the Maryland Municipal Leagues. Ocean City and 34 other cities in Maryland are part of the Mid-Atlantic region branch. The campaign works with municipal leaders to access and identify ways to create a healthy town.