For the third year in a row, the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department has won a Healthy Ohio Community Gold Award.

For the third year in a row, the Westerville Parks and Recreation Department has won a Healthy Ohio Community Gold Award.

The award, presented by the Ohio Department of Health, is given to organizations that proactively promote the health and well-being of their constituents, according to fitness manager Mike Herron.

"Basically, the award recognizes outstanding achievements of communities in implementing health-related policies and healthy environments," Herron said. "In addition to that, it also recognizes our efforts to encourage the residents and employees of Westerville to make healthy choices, specifically as they relate to the goals of Healthy Ohio."

The key areas targeted by the Healthy Ohio initiative are: increasing physical activity, improving nutrition and preventing tobacco use, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Applications for the awards are reviewed by the Healthy Ohio award selection committee and based on a scoring system - communities receiving 90-100 points are awarded gold, 80-89 are awarded silver and 60-79 are awarded bronze.

Westerville was one of 14 communities in the state to receive Gold Awards, along with Columbus, Aberdeen, Allen County, Athens, Bucyrus, Defiance, Fayette, Findlay, Napoleon, Norwood, Orrville, Ross County and Warren. Four communities in the state received silver awards, and three won bronze awards.

Herron said the city's FitQuest program played heavily into the department receiving the award. FitQuest is an initiative for adults that allows participants to keep track of their physical activity online and monitor their progress through a city-run Web site.

"We think this is a fantastic achievement," he said. "It shows how we are a leader in the field to provide healthy opportunities to our residents and employees."