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iHeart Johns Creek on track to keep city healthy

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JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — A committee of 11 residents are on a mission to bring health and wellness to the forefront of Johns Creek City Council decision making.

In 2018, the City Council adopted a resolution to embrace a new healthcare-centric identity in Johns Creek to go by the name “iHeart Johns Creek.”

Two years later, the iHeart Johns Creek Advisory Committee was founded. The volunteer resident group meets roughly once a month to discuss recommendations for the City Council in areas of policy and administration that would help carry out the council’s charge.

Johns Creek is currently home to 224 healthcare and medical businesses within its 31 square miles.

In Georgia, the Department of Public Health considers community health needs on a county level, dealing directly with 159 county health departments and 18 public health districts.

iHeart Johns Creek’s Advisory Committee, in its City Council presentation Sept. 27, echoed the city’s 2018 resolution arguing that the city should have a more hands-on approach to healthcare and wellness within its limits instead of deferring to the county.

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The committee cited a 2017 study by the Georgia Healthy Cities project which concluded that, “it is no longer feasible to affect health change without engagement at the city level. Cities impact public works, infrastructure, housing, transportation and economic development, all of which are essential to advancing health for all.”

The study measured 27 different health indicators ranging from employment to discrimination as well as data on the cities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and named Johns Creek the eighth healthiest city in the United States out of the 500 cities included.

In the City Council presentation, former Committee Chairman Dimitri Doncov shared the panel’s efforts from its start, including the development of a mission, vision and framework for implementing the proposed identity.

Doncov proposed a three-phased approach to fulfill the committee’s vision, to make Johns Creek “recognized as a preeminent city in health and wellness.”

“The focus here is on building a culture of excellence in leadership, and it involves all different aspects of the city from people, communities and businesses and pushing forward that vision,” Doncov said.

Phase one, Doncov said, is to build the brand of iHeart Johns Creek. The committee developed a logo and recommended community input meetings, a branded 5K race, and a mayoral award, among other items.

Phase two focuses on “developing community wellness,” Doncov said. The primary recommendation is implementation of the town center plan, adopted by the City Council Oct. 25. Beyond the official plan, Doncov recommended the development of a wellness district within the proposed town center.

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The recommended wellness district would focus on “being well” rather than “getting well,” Doncov said. A memo presented to the City Council in conjunction with Doncov’s presentation provided suggested additions to the plan.

“[The wellness district could] be a place where one could find fitness programs, cooking classes on healthy eating, a farmer’s market for fresh produce, and other activities that promote wellness.”

A year-round farmer’s market was one suggestion included in the approved Town Center Vision and Plan. The plan posed the Creekside Pond north area located behind City Hall as a potential location for the market.

Surrounding municipalities like Alpharetta and Roswell have also begun promoting wellness within their cities, using their convention and visitors bureaus as well as recreation and parks departments.

The committee’s memo also instructed the City Council to highlight “getting well” infrastructure already housed in the city like Emory Johns Creek hospital and other healthcare facilities.

Also included in the committee’s recommendations was conducting a symposium for local health leaders, the expansion of wellness education programs and fostering a culture of mental health.

In the final phase of creating an iHeart Johns Creek identity, Doncov said the committee will promote economic growth in the health and wellness industries by bringing new business to the city.

Finally, committee members implored the city to hire a dedicated full-time director to take over implementation of the committee’s recommendations.

Johns Creek Communications Director Bob Mullen said the committee plans to return to work in January with a new chair and four new committee members. City Council Post 3 Councilman-elect Bob Erramilli resigned his position on the committee when he launched his campaign for City Council.

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On Nov. 15, City Council members approved four resolutions to fill the open seats on the committee. Alex Almanza, Jillian Phillips, Eileen Parsons and Marti Vogt have been approved as the new members of the iHeart Johns Creek Advisory Committee.

Reach Sydney Dangremond at 770-847-7404. Follow her on Twitter @syddang_.

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