Creating a healthier West Orange

Healthy West Orange seeks to make the West Orange community the healthiest in the nation.

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  • | 7:58 p.m. February 17, 2016
  • West Orange Times & Observer
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WEST ORANGE The West Orange community will be the healthiest in the nation. 

That is the vision of Healthy West Orange, a campaign led by the West Orange Healthcare District in partnership with Health Central Hospital and Observer Media Group, parent company of the West Orange Times & Observer and Windermere Observer newspapers.

The program seeks to bring together community leaders and businesses to work together for a cultural transformation. 

“We’re looking to leverage existing investments, initiatives and events that we believe collectively can be more effective and transformational if all of these things that are already happening have the umbrella and the energy of Healthy West Orange,” Tracy Swanson, executive director of the West Orange Healthcare District, said. “We start to kind of all point in the same direction, so we can exponentially move ourselves forward.”

The program is an extension of what is already happening in West Orange — from farmers markets to trails — and tackle the challenges of what keeps people from pursuing a healthy lifestyle, from making trails safe for children to walk on to providing healthy meals for people in need.


Many community leaders are gathering at the end of February to kick off Healthy West Orange. Following this gathering, Healthy West Orange will host at least four health-and-wellness expos throughout the year, with the first taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27, at West Oaks Mall in Ocoee. The event will feature fitness vendors, healthy cooking demonstrations and businesses that have worked with Healthy West Orange since its inception. 

Healthy West Orange also encourages people to take steps to live a healthy life. They can take the Healthy West Orange pledge online, where they commit to make healthy choices, from exercise to food choices. This pledge is structured around the program’s four pillars — health status, nutrition, fitness and lifestyle. Participants are able to pledge as an individual or as a part of a business, school or organization. A live tracker on the website shows how many West Orange residents have pledged to take the challenge. 

Once residents join the challenge, they are encouraged to take a Healthy Selfie to show themselves doing a healthy activity in action. To share the image with Healthy West Orange, post it to social media with the hashtag #HealthySelfie. 

The newspapers also will print weekly health, fitness or medical tips during the campaign.

Pam Gould, District 4 Orange County School Board member, has expressed an interest in the program.

“Anything we can do to help our families and our community, the healthier they will be and the better they will be,” said Gould, who has a background and a strong interest in health care. “This is right up the alley of what I’ve wanted to do, and it’s a perfect opportunity to really try to improve the health and wellness of our community and do it together as a community.”


Take the pledge at

I commit:

To do my part to transform my community to one of health and wellness beginning with myself

To be responsible for my physical and mental health through my daily choices

To be active a minimum of three times a week for thirty minutes a day

To make daily healthy food choices

For more information, visit 


To make your pledge count, you’ll want to set reasonable and measurable goals. Here are some tips for sticking to it:

Make it specific. Once you take the pledge, decide how you will specifically reach those goals. When making daily healthy food choices, perhaps you will drink water instead of your daily soda. 

Make it measurable. You should have a way of knowing you reached your goals. For example, if you commit to run three times a week for at least 30 minutes, you can reach the end of each week and measure if you’ve attained that goal. 

Make it attainable. Your goals should cause you to stretch, but don’t make them unreachable. If you don’t exercise regularly, don’t set a goal of working out for two hours each day. 


Healthy West Orange plans to foster a culture of wellness through these four pillars of health:

Health Status: Understanding and aspiring to a strong health status, measured through basic means such as body mass index. 

Fitness: Committing and participating in fitness activities. 

Nutrition: Making education choices about eating habits, such as getting eating plenty of vegetables and reducing harmful pesticides in diet. 

Lifestyle: Access to health resources and choosing healthy behaviors, such as smoking cessation, managing stress, environmental influences and other things that affect a person’s ability to live a healthy life. 

What is the West Orange Healthcare District?

The Florida Legislature established the independent special healthcare district in 1949. The West Orange Healthcare District evolved with several key milestones over the next three decades: The construction of the 41-bed West Orange Memorial Hospital in Winter Garden in 1952; the purchase of the 118-bed West Orange Manor skilled-nursing home, located near the hospital, in the 1970s; the addition of 110 beds at West Orange Manor and a new name, Health Central Park, in 1988; and the completion of Health Central hospital and medical office complex in Ocoee in 1993.

By 2010, the passage of the Affordable Care Act led the district to evaluate options to better serve local residents. This process resulted in the 2012 sale of all district facilities to longtime partner Orlando Health, which agreed to pay the WOHD $181 million plus interest over 15 years, with proceeds going toward improving the quality and availability of world-class healthcare services and facilities in West Orange County.

Recent grants include $25 million to Health Central Hospital in 2013 to expand the emergency department, $150,000 to The Brain Foundation of Florida in 2014 to purchase and renovate a home for recovering mental health patients and multi-year commitments totaling $500,000 to the Roper YMCA for capital improvements and more than $600,000 to Shepherd’s Hope to provide healthcare services for medically underserved and uninsured residents.


Contact Jennifer Nesslar at [email protected] and Amy Quesinberry Rhode at [email protected].



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