Julia Roberts Goad
WILLIAMSON — A new program is working to encourage healthier lifestyles in Mingo County, thanks to a grant from the Center for Disease Control.
Change the Future West Virginia (CTFWV) is a statewide project funded by a five year grant from the Center for Disease Control. The program’s goal is to create healthier communities by making healthy living easier and more affordable where people work, live, learn and play.
Heather Sammons is the Coordinator for CTFWV in Mingo County. She spoke about the program at a meeting in Williamson held by the STOP Coalition.
“We want to make it easier to live a healthier lifestyle in West Virginia,” Sammons said.”We are doing that through three initiatives - tobacco prevention and cessation, healthy living and healthy lifestyles and chronic disease prevention.”
Helping to people in Mingo County maintain a healthy weight is one goal of CTFWV. Overweight and obesity rates in the state are at an all-time high. Data indicates the rate of overweight among adults was 38 percent while the rate of obesity was 30 percent. Compared to other states, West Virginia’s adults ranked as the 13th highest for overweight and the fifth highest for obesity. One way to fight obesity is to make fresh fruits and vegetables available.
“We are working with grocery and convenience stores, farmer’s markets to help provide Electronic Benefit Transfer machines at the farmer’s markets so low income families can purchase fresh fruits and vegetables,” Sammons said.
Another aspect of the initiative for a healthy lifestyle is called healthy checkouts.
“Healthy checkouts means taking the junk food, inactive toys, soda and sugary drinks, artificially sweetened things out of the end of the aisles,” Sammons explained. She said the candies and toys usually found near checkouts in stores are replaced with fruit and healthy snacks such as milk and cheese. Examples of active toys such as jump ropes and hula hoops encourage physical activity for children.
Sammons said CTFWV is working to help convenience stores carry a greater variety of food items.
“In some areas, there may not be a grocery store nearby,” she said. “It may be someone running to a convenience store to pick up a few things for dinner. If we can get some fresh produce into that convenience store, they can pick up something of nutritive value in that meal.”
Networking and education is also a major component of CTFWV, especially when helping people manage chronic disease.
“We are working with local coalitions and community groups, bringing them together to develop a community-based healthcare system so that when people are diagnosed with chronic diseases, they will have a network in place to find the treatment they need,” Sammons said. “We can help someone find an exercise group if they need to lose weight or a smoking cessation class or diabetes management. We are recruiting community health education resource people who will receive training from the West Virginia University School of Osteopathic Medicine, diabetes and chronic disease self-management training.”
For more information about CTFWV, visit changethefuturewv.org or call the regional office at the Cabell-Huntington Health Department at 304 523-6483.