PARKERSBURG - Change the Future WV, a regional program aimed at improving health and fitness in the Mid-Ohio Valley, celebrated its first anniversary Monday with a presentation in the Judge Black Annex.
"The goal of this particular project is make healthy choice the easy choice, whether it's food, whether it's activities, whatever the case may be. We don't focus on individual behavior; we focus rather on giving individuals access to the things they need to make healthy choices," said Joe Barker, director of the Office of Community Health Systems and Health Promotion with the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health.
Change The Future WV is focused on changing policies, systems and environments to create healthier communities, Barker said, emphasizing improvement of access to healthy food options and safe environments for physical activity, along with numerous other goals related to improving health.
Change the Future WV, a program aimed at improving health in the Mid-Ohio Valley, celebrated its fir
The program kicked off in March 2010 with a ceremony in Bicentennial Park in downtown Parkersburg and will run through March 2012. It is funded by a $4.5 million Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The grant is being administered in six West Virginia counties in the Mid-Ohio Valley, Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt, and Wood, through the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.
MOVHD executive director Dick Wittberg said a number of things have been accomplished in the first year of the two-year program. In the six-county area covered by MOVHD, the program helped hire 14 physical education instructors to work in the middle and high schools in the region.
The goal is to move children toward daily physical education by offering things at the beginning of the school day and end of the school day with the goal of getting children more active. In elementary schools, the program helped sponsor a fresh fruit and vegetable program.
It also worked with school booster organizations to offer things like fruit slices, vegetables and dip, baked chips and fruit juices at the concession stands at local school athletic events.
"What's even better, they often sold out of these things," Wittberg said.
Change the Future WV has also worked with area grocers on things like lowering prices on healthy foods, improving placement of those items and the creation of special "healthy" checkout lanes. The program is also working with local communities, farmers and vendors to encourage the creation of more farmers' markets in the area, he said.
The program has also helped fund a variety of initiatives to create safe and attractive places for physical activities. One of those initiatives helped Belmont in Pleasants County finish its walking track. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held Monday afternoon to highlight that project, Wittberg said.
Other programs being held this week to mark the one-year anniversary include a farmers' market event at 11 a.m. Wednesday in Grantsville, a fresh fruit and vegetable program at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Wirt Primary Center in Elizabeth and a roller skating event at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Pennsboro Roller Rink.
For the next year, Wittberg said the program will continue to work with school systems to focus on physical activity and physical education. It will also continue working to promote farmers' markets and physical activities in the region. As an example, organizers want to look at ways to improve signage, markers and maps for the walking areas and trails in the region, both leading to those areas and on the trails themselves, Wittberg said.