More than $5.5 million funding six-county effort

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – As partner in an initiative to combat obesity in six West Virginia counties, the West Virginia University Health Research Center (HRC) has assisted in securing $5.5 million in federal grant awards.

In collaboration with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources and the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, the partnership will implement changes in the nutrition and physical activity policies of West Virginia’s mid-Ohio valley region. The targeted area includes Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood counties.

In addition to conducting the evaluation of grant activities, WVU Health Research Center co-directors Carole Harris, Ph.D., and Drew Bradlyn, Ph.D., serve as members of the state management team overseeing the grant, part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work (CPPW) program from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Over the past four years, HRC has worked with state agencies to conduct evaluations of the state’s childhood obesity legislation and policies. According to Drs. Bradlyn and Harris, the work funded by the CPPW grant is a natural outgrowth of these efforts.

“We are excited to be a partner in this exceptional opportunity,“ Harris said. “Our evaluations of the strong state school policies identified a need for greater involvement of the communities in preventing obesity. This grant provides a wealth of resources in the Mid-Ohio Valley region, and will link West Virginia to efforts nationwide.”

Initially awarded $4.5 million, the West Virginia partnership recently received an additional $986,000 to support an expansion of the evaluation, including measures of community parks and trails and biometric measurements of youth and adults.  The WVU Health Research Center will direct these efforts.

Bill Reger-Nash, Ed.D., WVU Community Medicine, provides expertise on marketing and training for grant activities. Dr. Reger-Nash demonstrated significant policy and environmental changes in his “Wheeling Walks” and “1percent or Less” low-fat milk campaigns, and believes these initiatives will help the region effect meaningful physical activity and nutrition changes.

“No matter where one lives today, it is within an environment that encourages obesity,” said Reger-Nash. “This is true for West Virginia, but it is also true for most of the United States and elsewhere.  For example, it is much easier to find an orange pop than it is to find an orange.  This has to be changed.” 

The CPPW funding is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which directed $650 million to carry out evidence-based clinical and community-based prevention and wellness strategies authorized by the Public Health Service Act.  The goal of the CPPW program is to reduce risk factors and prevent/delay chronic disease and promote wellness in both children and adults.

For more information: Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087
lr: 10-20-10