CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A new website invites West Virginians to find help, inspiration and information to support healthier eating and exercise habits.
The site -- livewellwv.org -- is a project of the West Virginia University Extension Service and The Charleston Gazette. It grew out of an existing Extension web site and a collaboration with the Gazette's "The Shape We're In" project on obesity and chronic disease.
For 30 years, West Virginians, like other Americans, have been gaining too much weight and getting too little exercise. The problem has gotten so bad that largely preventable diseases are killing people prematurely. The symptoms are now increasingly visible in children. By fifth grade today, 24 percent of the state's children have high blood pressure, 26 percent have high cholesterol and 29 percent are obese.
"LiveWell West Virginia, aims to inform, inspire, connect and encourage all West Virginians, wherever they are, on their journey toward ever more healthful days," writes Ann Bailey Berry, associate director of the WVU Extension Service. "Because of this partnership and website, our wellness information is available through our offices in every county as well as online."
The site offers nutritional and fitness information from WVU Extension, as well as resources for parents, teachers, schools and communities. Some of the related topics will include financial health, gardening, and developing healthy relationships.
It will offer a place for towns and counties to share what they are doing to be healthier. For those with a competitive spirit, the Live Well Community Challenge -- "Summer Steps" -- is a walking program to motivate West Virginians to get active. Individuals can choose their county and track their personal mileage through the online tracker. The winning county will be announced in September.
The site links to Gazette coverage of not only obesity and chronic disease, but also healthy eating on a budget and other health topics.
WVU Extension already operated a web site to promote healthy living. It offered informative and engaging blogs and weekly challenges to stimulate healthy habits throughout the year. Those features are also part of the new site. For example, weekly challenges prompt mountaineers to plan ahead which meals to eat out, to try a new food or to incorporate a new activity into a weekly routine.
Extension specialists were considering improvements to the previous site when they struck up a relationship with Kate Long at the Gazette. Long's project "The Shape We're In" is made possible by a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.
"I continue to be impressed with the depth and commitment that Kate Long and the Gazette have shown with this project," said Michelle Levander, director of The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships.
"It has galvanized the community in calling attention to this urgent problem for the state's residents. This forward-thinking website represents a great model for engaging ordinary citizens with practical advice and opportunities for participating in the solutions."
LivewellWV.org is designed to grow and expand as more individuals and communities use it.