America's Health Rankings for this year are out, and it is hardly surprising that West Virginia ranks near the bottom, 47th this time. What's new and what's encouraging is the appetite for change shown across the state, from individual schoolrooms all the way up to the Legislature.
Today, Americans are living longer, which may explain, at least in part, why Americans are also sicker, Reed Tuckson of the United Health Foundation said in USA Today.
No one knows that better than West Virginia, where a largely older population and regional characteristics combine to give West Virginia poorer health measures than the rest of the nation. (Across America, 27.8 percent of all adults are obese, while 26.2 percent are physically inactive and 21.2 percent smoke.)
But unlike previous years, West Virginians have more reason for optimism. Around the state, individuals, schools, churches, health care providers and other groups are identifying beginning steps to help each other take better care of their bodies. Motivated at least partly by Gazette reporter Kate Long's year-long project "The Shape We're In," state residents are making healthy changes within their spheres of influence. During legislative interim meetings this month, lawmakers heard recommendations on increasing the tobacco tax, banning soft drinks in high schools and making school gyms available after school. Sen. Ron Miller, D-Greenbrier, who chairs the Senate Agriculture Committee, said the issue involves everyone, and suggested several committees collaborate.
"If we work together, we might get somewhere," he said.
Among the other points emphasized by the United Health Foundation: