One morning last month, representatives of the West Virginia Association of Counties and the WVU Extension Service attended a Monroe County Commission meeting to present a new honor, the first Live Well West Virginia County Award.
Monroe County residents walked a total of 991.61 miles during the summer, about the distance from Union to Key Largo. They participated in "Summer Steps," a challenge organized by the West Virginia Association of Counties, WVU Extension and the Gazette. It was inspired by Kate Long's series "The Shape We're In" that has appeared throughout the year.
Monroe County residents demonstrate what any community can do, rural or urban. West Virginians are accustomed to ranking high in disease, obesity and disability. Certainly some solutions are bigger than any one household or county. But others are not.
Some solutions are as simple as using existing buildings or walking routes, forming groups for encouragement and commitment, logging progress to stay motivated, and making a little effort several times a week. Kanawha County placed second with 745.41 miles, followed by Jefferson County at 736.72 miles. Statewide, West Virginians who registered for the competition walked 4,276.73 miles, almost the distance from New York City to Hawaii.
All participants are a motivating example of how small changes, repeated regularly, can add up. And those small changes make a difference -- to lower blood sugar, improve heart health, drop weight and forestall serious diseases.
The West Virginia Association of Counties, led by Executive Director Patti Hamilton, has been championing this issue in the past year, helping county residents and elected officials to find ways to improve local health. We look forward to following the association's Healthy Counties Initiative in 2013.