Elkins Rotary hears about changing the future

Many people want to try to incorporate healthier habits, but knowing where to access health management programs, exercise classes and healthier foods is hard to find. This week, Elkins Rotary Club members learned about a program that is working to strengthen regional coalitions where they exist and develop those where none exist.

Change the Future West Virginia is transforming communities to help West Virginians live in healthy environments where they can eat well, be active and exercise. Important health and economic benefits can be shared by focusing on creating collaboratives that make it easy to access healthy food options, opportunities for physical activity, clean air environments and proper preventive health care.

Region 2 Program Coordinator Jeremy Wanless said Change the Future West Virginia was created through the Affordable Care Act of 2010, and West Virginia was awarded $1.88 million for their program.

“We hope to build these collaborations to help have measurable outcomes such as change in weight, smoking habits, eating fresh fruits and vegetables and helping folks manage their chronic illnesses,” Wanless said Monday. “Our goals are to reduce death and disability by 5 percent due to tobacco abuse and obesity.”

Wanless said the group strives to promote tobacco-free living by supporting community efforts to adopt clean indoor air regulations by providing clean smoke-free air in public places and to encourage smoke-free and tobacco-free homes, especially for foster care homes.

They also advocate healthy eating and active living by improving school meal nutrition through farm to school programs and healthy food training for cooks and food service directors.

“We hope to increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables by supporting farmers markets and establishing healthy checkout aisles in grocery stores and convenience marts,” Wanless said. “We have to go where our kids go, and it is better to bribe our kids with a piece of fruit than an unhealthy snack.”

Wanless said officials hope to increase physical activity time for children in schools, childcare centers and family daycare homes. He also said they encourage healthy foster homes through education related to diet and exercise.

Another aspect of the program is preventive health care.

“We want to see an increase of community-based programs to help prevent diabetes, heart disease and strokes,” Wanless said. “We are looking to train community champions to be local health advocates to help get information about health care resources.”

Wanless said the group needs help to make the program a success. He said the group in Kanawha County is building maps to help folks locate area health facilities.

“We also have money dedicated to television ads, newspaper ads, radio spots and social networking outlets for public education,” Wanless said. “We will soon be offering some educational meetings in the area.”

Information about Change the Future West Virginia is available by calling 304-636-0396 or by email at jeremy.s.wanless@wv.gov.