Healthy choices aren't always the easiest but one group is working to "change the future" by providing more convenient ways to stay active and have a balanced diet.
Program leaders of Change the Future West Virginia worked in six Mid-Ohio Valley counties with the goal of making people healthier by bringing attention to foods people eat, the environment in which they live and physical activity in both schools and communities. The program also strived for policy changes in local government.
As the state looks for solution to West Virginia's epic health crisis, some people say programs similar to Change the Future could help alter the Mountain State's course away from an early grave.
Change the Future received one of 50 grants awarded nationwide through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Putting Prevention to Work initiative. The program focuses on promoting physical activity and healthy eating habits in Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood counties.
"A lot of where it was focused on in the past is individual lifestyle factors. We're beginning to move outside the circles. … To make an impact on individuals, we need the individual to make a change and to see that change," said Tom Bias, from the health research center of West Virginia University's School of Public Health.
"People may not have access to fresh fruits and veggies. We are telling people to exercise when they may not have a chance or a place to exercise," he added.
One of the program's goals was to help fight instances of chronic disease, which is very high in the Mountain State, said John Yauch, program manager of the Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease and project director for Change the Future West Virginia.
"Disease rates overall have risen quite dramatically over the last couple of decades. Not only in West Virginia but nationwide. … Although it's obesity prevention, it does have a strong focus on chronic disease prevention," Yauch said. Many factors contribute to chronic disease and obesity, he said.
"Whether it's the lack of access to physical activity or nutritious foods, or whether it seems that sedentary behaviors are more common than they were when I was growing up or whether it's the way people prepare their foods or the overall food environment."