A health initiative from the West Virginia University School of Public Health will take aim at Wyoming County.
“We are here,” said Dr. Mike McCawley of the School of Public Health.
The Southern West Virginia Lifestyles Project (SWVL) will use a core group of local residents to spread the word about healthy living. The WVU schools of Nursing, Pharmacy, Dentristy and Medicine, among others, will be assisting with the project.
Local officials and community members attended an information session about SWVL held Monday in the Wyoming County Commission chambers in Pineville.
“Part of our mission is to the state of West Virginia,” McCawley observed.
Counties in southern West Virginia rank among the least healthy nationally, with high rates of diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
“We want this (initative) to be community-led,” McCawley commented. He said residents would be more responsive to information about healthier living if it came from familiar faces.
SWVL, which will promote proper diet and exercise, smoking cessation, prenatal care and other aspects of healthy living, is funded through a $62,000 grant from the Benedum Foundation,
“This is seed money to begin (the project) with,” McCawley said.
“Wyoming County is a good place to start,” he commented, noting a number of WVU students and graduates who felt the project could help the area.
McCawley said he would like to see about 100 local volunteers start the health lifestyles process. “If each one contacts ten friends, then you have 1,000 people,” he pointed out.
Improving the environment is also a goal.
“The everything you live in,” McCawley stated. “It’s the food you ear, the clothes you wear, the soil you put plants in.”
Community gardens, water treatment, pre-natal screening for pregnant women and dental care will all be part of the emphasis on living a healthier life.
“We want to see change within the entire county,” McCawley remarked. “We’re going to give everybody a reason to change.”
McCauley said he met with churches last year and planned to do more this week “to see if they have space for a co-op.”
He said it was easier for people to be motivated to lose weight and exercise if they have support from others trying to do the same.
“We need to buy into this,” commented Circuit Clerk David “Bugs” Stover. “We’ve got to make a change.”
Charlene Cook of the Mullens Opportunity Center talked about a weight loss pogram, Shed Unwanted Pounds (SUP) at the facility. There are about 45 people in three groups competing to see which group can lose the most weight.
McAwley said he hopes interest in the project will spread to neighboring counties.
Photo: Dr. Mike McCawley of the WVU School of Public Health talks with Charlene Cook of the Mullens Opportunity Center at Monday’s meeting in Pineville.