America’s Healthiest City Launch [Press Release]


January 11, 2023

Media Contact: Will Melton, 757-713-9455,

10-Year Initiative to Make Richmond the Healthiest City in America Kicks Off This Month

Xponent21 has announced the launch of America’s Healthiest City, a 10-year initiative with an aim to make the Richmond region the nation’s healthiest. The initiative is funded and spearheaded by Xponent21 and its owner and CEO Will Melton. The effort, which kicks off this month, will culminate through various external initiatives ranging from small things that citizens can do on their own to more complex efforts that require collaboration amongst community stakeholders. The goal is to achieve the namesake status by 2033.

The main platform for the initiative is its website, It features ideas submitted by community members, stories about people and organizations that are making a difference, videos from community partners that chronicle progress, and a list of Ambassadors in Richmond who have committed to putting their strategic decisions through “The Filter”, which is a question: How will this decision make Richmond healthier?

The idea for America’s Healthiest City was born out of a sense of urgency after Melton graduated from the Leadership Metro Richmond Quest Class of 2020, where community leaders immersed themselves in issues that commonly ail the community. After conducting interviews with experts on food and food equity, Melton’s Quest team concluded that addressing proximity, access to, and affordability of food alone would not be enough to enable more Richmonders to eat well.

“I felt overwhelmed by the recurring prescription from experts that if you want to solve food, you have to address housing, wage security, workforce development, access to transportation and healthcare, and so much more. There was no one project that I could see that would truly move the needle, but if those trying to change things work together and believe we can get there, it’s more than possible to realize this vision,” said Melton of the two-year process of working through the idea and developing the website. “It’s common sense that you can’t cook a healthy meal if you don’t have a fridge to keep produce fresh or a place to store pots and pans, but those thoughts don’t often go through the minds of those who are securely housed. That’s just one example of the many hurdles we face in this push.”

In addition to publishing news and features on the website, Xponent21 has plans for a sustained media push over the course of the initiative in order to recruit new Ambassadors, introduce innovative and effective ideas to the community, and tell the stories of progress in order to generate inspiration and reach the goal.

To help promote America’s Healthiest City, Xponent21 will be airing a weekly radio show on Thursdays at 6 a.m. on ESPN Richmond. The show will feature conversations with America’s Healthiest City Ambassadors, health professionals, nonprofit executives, elected leaders, and academic experts who are committed to the idea that Richmond can become America’s Healthiest City and are doing the important work to educate, innovate, and drive the kind of change that is needed to make it possible. In addition to airing on ESPN, the show will air on CW Richmond on Wednesdays at 5 a.m. and will be available on-demand via the website and podcast platforms.

The first episode features Diana Boxey, Global Director of Marketing for Richmond-based AMF Bakery Systems, and Deb Lawrence, Executive Director of ReWork Richmond, a workforce development nonprofit serving the East End of Richmond. Boxey and Lawrence share their experiences becoming America’s Healthiest City Ambassadors and talk about changes that have taken place in their organizations since putting strategic decisions through The Filter.

Melton and his team are also in talks with a technology partner to help develop a data platform to track comparative metrics that will indicate progress throughout the initiative. An initial list of 24 metrics has been assembled based on healthy city initiatives conducted by the World Health Organization and the World Economic Forum. Both organizations emphasize the imperative for collaboration between government, nonprofit, business, and academic stakeholders in order to succeed in making a community measurably healthier. Melton emphasized the importance of tracking progress by adding, “the data platform is the component that rounds out this effort and allows us to say definitively in 2033 whether we reached our goal. My hope is to have that platform in place in a matter of weeks or months, not longer.”

For more information about becoming an Ambassador for America’s Healthiest City or to submit a healthy idea of your own, visit or email


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