Two years ago, with a lot of fanfare, the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department launched Change the Future, West Virginia...aimed at promoting healthy lifestyles from youngsters to adults.
The two-year funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially came to an end last week. But the effects of the program are expected to last far beyond that.
"We've started down the path of where we want to be," says Carrie Brainard, Health and Wellness Director, Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department. "We're not there by any stretch of the imagination, but we've made a great deal of progress in two years time, and I'm really proud of what we've accomplished. And it couldn't have been done without all of the communities pulling together."
"We've funded some other engineering projects we hope will lead to increased access to trails," says Dick Wittberg, the health department's executive director. "We've been able to get more physical activity for children, tobacco-free parks, and things we hope will have a lasting benefit to the community."
Some of those walking trails are now located in the health department's smaller counties, including Pleasants and Calhoun.
And there are more fresh fruits and vegetables not only in grocery stores, but in convienience stores. The health department also took advantage of the opening of the Winter Farmers Market in downtown Parkersburg.
"We sponsored the 'I Am Chef', for kids to come in and use fresh fruits and vegetables," Brainard says. "So we have been very involved in what's going on with them. But we also have the five other counties, and we've been able to add farmers markets to a couple of those counties."
The initiative has been a combined effort of the health department along with the West Virginia University Health Research Center and the state office of healthy lifestyles.