What Drives Us

Across the country, the health of communities are evaluated annually by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation through a set of 18 standard criteria. Then, their findings are released by state. The most current rankings placed Chesapeake as 46th in Quality of Life and 40th in Length of Life among the measured communities in Virginia. This is a decline from previous years.

This current decline is a continuing trend, and has led to the development and launch of the Healthy Chesapeake movement. Both the Healthy Chesapeake Coalition and Healthy Chesapeake, Inc. are interested in creating ongoing dialogue, connecting people and resources, and shaping efforts to  reverse this trend. Our goal is to make Chesapeake the healthiest community in Virginia.  

Recognizing that health and well-being are interconnected with social, cultural, physical, economic, and other factors, Healthy Chesapeake has adopted many of the precepts of the Healthy Community movement, which began in Toronto, Canada in 1984.  Also, Healthy Chesapeake operates under the auspices of the World Health Organization. These factors are similar to those being used by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation in determining their annual health rankings, which provide the focus areas for program development by the Healthy Chesapeake Coalition and Healthy Chesapeake 501(c)3 non-profit.

  • The Healthy Chesapeake non-profit is governed by a Board of Directors. The non-profit serves the community as a vehicle for fund development, resource gathering and sharing, advocacy, and evaluation of program effectiveness on issues related to the social determinants of health as defined by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. When needed, it also serves as the fiscal agent for the Healthy Chesapeake Coalition.
  • The Healthy Chesapeake Coalition is a group of citizens, agencies, and service providers working collaboratively to develop and deliver programs, services, etc., within the scope of their mission and the will of the Coalition.

Current Status of Chesapeake

The work of both the non-profit and the Coalition are driven by the needs of the citizens, which are collected through community surveys as well as through on-going analysis of data collected from a host of sources. The analysis is done by comparison of the status of the City as it relates to other communities in Virginia. The chart below reflects a partial listing of Chesapeake’s rank or percentage performance compared to the Virginia average. The additional charts depict the most recent data on other specific health indicators.

The table below demonstrates chronic disease objectives of Healthy People 2020 and how Chesapeake compares to the state.


Age-Adjusted Estimates of Percentage of Obese Adults in Chesapeake

AgeAdjuted Estimates of Obese

Current Perception of Socio-Economic and other Factors Relative to Chesapeake

Over the past several years, there have been several intensive efforts to gather feedback from the general citizenry, stakeholder groups, and governmental representatives on the current status of the health of Chesapeake. This feedback has been compiled into several documents including the Chesapeake Community Health Assessment and the Healthy Chesapeake Coalition Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis. The findings from these efforts are summarized below. Currently, these findings are being used by the Board of Directors of the non-profit and the Coalition membership to steer the Healthy Chesapeake priorities.

Chesapeake Community Health Assessment
Following extensive community-wide surveys, key informant interviews and a review of current health data, The 2015 Chesapeake Community Health Assessment was released by the regional Planning Council. This comprehensive study indicated significant challenge areas as it relates to community health.

  • Identified Challenges
    Opportunities to Exercise
    Access to Transportation
    Fresh/Affordable Foods
    Healthcare & Screenings
  • Assessment Priority Health Issues
    Mental Health—(61%)
    Aging (48%)
    Environment (43%)
    Nutrition (39%)
    Obesity (38%)
    Disabilities (35%)
    Chronic Diseases (34%)
  • Assessment 5 Community Strengths to build from
    Local 24-hour Police, Fire, and Rescue services
    Access to Quality Schools, Public Education, etc. 
    Safe Neighborhoods
    Access to Parks and Recreation
    Low Crime
  • Assessment 5 Areas that Need More Resources
    Walk-able, Bike-able Community
    Jobs and a Healthy Economy
    Access to Affordable Housing for Everyone
    Access to Healthcare for Everyone
    Working Toward Ending Homelessness

An experienced team of partners worked with the Planning Council, the Chesapeake Health Department, and Chesapeake Regional Medical Center to develop priorities and recommendations for addressing these community health issues. These recommendations incorporated the active Chesapeake Youth Plan, 55+ Comprehensive Plan, and the Chesapeake 2035 Plan.

Healthy Chesapeake Coalition SWOT Analysis

In addition to the data gathered in the 2014 studies, a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities, and Threats) was conducted in conjunction with the November 2015 Healthy Chesapeake Planning Retreat. Responses were gathered through an online survey and during discussion at the retreat. The major themes were supportive of the findings of a previous Community Healthy Assessment and a Quality of Life Study also completed in 2014. The SWOT and these other studies are important tools that are being used as we move forward in program development.


Major strengths identified include human resources that support coalition building and health programming; robust healthcare and wellness support; and strong health related resources for youth.

Specific items include:

  • Human Resources
    • Strong Public/Private Partnerships
    • Volunteer and Faith-Based Networks
  • Robust Healthcare & Wellness Support
    • Chesapeake Regional Medical Center
    • Community Centers, Parks & Rec, YMCA, etc.
  • Strong Health Related Resources for Youth
    • Active School Health Advisory Board
    • Strong Early Childhood Program – wide variety of clubs and youth programming


Major weaknesses included human resource challenges and disparities in environments that impact heath, political factors, and lack of programmatic resources.

Specific items include:

  • Human Resources
    • Lack of critical leaders and sector representations
    • Disconnection with volunteers
  • Healthcare Supports and Environments
    • Poor mass transit limits access
    • Poor walkability and bike-ability built environment
    • Lack of facilities supporting aging
    • Food Related – lack of permanent farmers market, limited community gardens, lack of healthy food in restaurants, and food deserts
  • Political Factors
    • Some boroughs (S. Norfolk) left out of decisions/lack of cohesion across areas of city
    • Lack of health regulations (tobacco/vapor)
    • Commissions lack oversight/accountability
  • Programmatic Resources
    • Lack of education on issues such as tobacco, activities, healthy eating, etc. 
    • Lack of variety at recreation centers and gyms, lack of adult sports, lack of water venues, etc. 
    • Parks and Recreation not competitive with private gyms
  • Marketing and Communication
    • Poor marketing of existing programs and resources
    • Lack of marketing plan for community opportunities


Major themes related to external opportunity factors included enabling environments such as parks, open spaces, and low crime indexes; changing demographics; a variety of healthcare factors; political forces supporting healthy policy making; and area programmatic resources. These opportunities may be leveraged to increase effectiveness and/or reach of interventions in the community.

Specific items include:

  • Enabling Environment
    • City buildings, campuses, parks, and properties are ready targets for interventions
    • 74 diverse parks, trail system, and strong youth sports programs
    • City addressing aging recreational infrastructure
  • Demographics
    • Large number of young families in the city
    • Military Presence – active duty require fitness
    • Shifts in social norms toward concerns for healthier eating and locally sourced foods
  • Healthcare Factors
    • National focus on healthier populations to limit rising healthcare costs
    • Affordable Care Act and Health Insurance Exchange options
    • Technologies supporting improved healthcare resource access
    • Local movement for healthier communities
  • Political and Economic Factors
    • Work with tourism/economic development for healthy options
    • State funding for health programs in child care centers
    • Pricing strategies and tax incentives
    • Policy/regulatory initiatives to support/incentivize health and healthy choices
  • Programmatic Opportunities
    • Websites/social media as clearinghouse for health related resources
    • Smart phone apps to engage public in health programs
    • Healthy insurance programs to incentivize health


There are major threats to consider in planning our programs. One of them involves a population shift, which can impact access, health status, and other issues. Political and financial factors are also threats to using a collaborative approach to health. Lastly, a wide variety of environmental factors, particularly the food environment, such as food deserts and food insecurity are threats.

  • Population Health/Demographics and Healthcare
    • Medically underserved areas
    • Chronic disease prevalence – especially obesity and tobacco use related
    • Aging population and population growth up 20% by 2020
    • Densely populated areas with increased demands for services
    • Trend toward indoor activity/sedentary behaviors
    • Increase in homelessness
    • Increase in substance abuse (overdose, addiction, etc.) and mental health problems
  • Political
    • Different areas of city have different demands/influences
    • Changing beliefs on marijuana legalization
    • Lack of attraction to bring people to this area
    • Lack of social capital and “helping neighbors” mentality
  • Financial
    • Limited budgets and resources to sustain initiatives
    • Impact of privatization of medical services on community members
    • Rising healthcare, medications, and long term care costs
  • Environmental
    • Food deserts and food insecurity
    • National school food program standards
    • Urban/Rural/Suburban areas resulting in lack of public utilities to provide necessary services
    • Transit infrastructure is insufficient for varied geography of the city
    • Large number of fast food restaurants
    • Weather events impact transportation
    • Poor workplace health environments