A top Centers for Disease Control official called West Virginia's "Change the Future WV" project on Monday "a model for rural America in the effort to end the obesity and chronic disease epidemics."
"We point to this project as an example for rural areas," Rebecca Bunnell, acting director of CDC's Community Health Division, said at a meeting convened Monday to discuss ways the state can build on the project.
The $4.5 million project started two years ago, funded by the Centers for Disease Control through the state Bureau of Public Health. "Our challenge was to create healthier communities by changing the environment," said Joe Barker, who oversaw it.
"West Virginia has very disturbing statistics for both children and adults," Bunnell said. "This project shows that you can mobilize people in communities to make a true difference."
"Instead of telling people to eat healthier and be fit, we tried to make it easier by expanding the choices around them," said Tom Bias of West Virginia University's Health Research Center, which is evaluating the project.
One by one, speakers described the impact of the project, which the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department operated in six counties.
"When the Change the Future project asked if community people could use the schools after hours for fitness activities, I immediately said yes," said Daniel Metz, the Wirt County Superintendent of Schools.

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