HUNTINGTON, W.Va. - A program to promote healthier living in West Virginia is making progress in getting the word out, according to a regional director of the initiative.
Tim Hazelett told the Herald-Dispatch that communities in the Huntington area are getting behind the Change the Future WV program, which is funded by a grant to the state from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hazelett directs the program in a nine-county region, working with community groups, churches, businesses and others to expand healthy food options at community venues, make health screenings and education programs more available and encourage business owners to offer locally grown fruits and vegetables in conspicuous locations.
"It's a slow process with grassroots efforts, but we are seeing a lot of community buy-in," Hazelett said.
He said more than 30 businesses - including convenience stores, grocery stores, big-box retailers and specialty markets - have installed signs for the initiative and are helping to get the "healthy message" out to the community.
"We have all the Walmarts with the exception of one signed on to our healthy checkout initiative where they offer fruit and healthy options at checkout instead of only candy and junk food. Both Cabell Huntington Hospital and St. Mary's have implemented a tobacco-free campus and Marshall University is in the process of that as well, and we have tobacco-free parks in Jackson County," Hazelett said.
"We are working with our extension agents locally to offer diabetes self-management and prevention classes. We're working with Marshall's Center for Rural Health and their diabetes program. We're at health fairs in schools. Any opportunity we get to speak to Rotary or ministerial associations or small groups, we're there."
Hazelett said a lot of small projects with small goals can have a big impact.
"Can we change our community's designation as one of the most unhealthy in the country? Of course, but it's not going to happen overnight. We didn't get here overnight," he said.
The grant, which runs through 2016, focuses on tobacco-free living, active living and healthy eating, and services to prevent and control high blood pressure and high cholesterol.