CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Former President Bill Clinton struggled with his weight as a child. Now his foundation is helping thousands of West Virginia kids get in shape. This year, 158 West Virginia schools in 13 counties are signed up for the Healthy Schools Program, including all Mingo County schools.
The national Alliance for a Healthier Generation runs the Healthy School Program, created by the William J. Clinton Foundation and the American Heart Association to fight childhood obesity. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation now funds it.
Forty-two West Virginia schools have already graduated from the four-year fitness program. Twenty-five more are scheduled to start next year.
Amy File is the Alliance's West Virginia program manager. She conducts workshops for member schools several times a year, frequently reviews their programs and gives them helpful tips and materials, such as DVDs of quick classroom physical activity exercises.
Her services cost the schools nothing. "Our goal is to equip schools with all the resources and tools they need in the four years of hands-on workshops and to develop a high-functioning school wellness council that can be self-sustaining," she said.
When a school signs up as part of the Healthy Schools Program, staff fill out a detailed evaluation of strengths and weaknesses of the school's nutrition and physical activity program. The Alliance sends them back detailed suggestions for next steps they might take. Then File meets with them to help them take those steps.
West Virginia could keep several program managers busy, File said. "There is certainly a lot of demand." She cannot accept more schools for her visits till 2014, but she encourages schools to get started by signing up for the online component.
Schools can sign up at www.healthiergeneration.org.
Reach Kate Long at katel...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1798.
"The Shape We're In" has been supported by a Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism fellowship, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.