WV works to improve overall health through federal grant
August 22, 2012 ·
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention is trying to improve the health of Americans through Community Transformation Grants. It’s part of the Affordable Care Act which has been referred to as “Obama Care.”
The West Virginia Bureau For Public Health was awarded more than $1.8 million last year to serve the entire state, about 1.8 million people. Since then, the Bureau has formed leadership teams and divided the state into 4 regions with a lead health department for each region.
The Kanawha–Charleston Health Department is leading region three which includes Kanawha, Fayette Greenbrier, McDowell, Mercer, Monroe, Summers, Raleigh and Wyoming Counties.
Krista Farley is the Director of Health Promotion and Public Information.
“When you look at the county health rankings," Farley said, "which are reports that are being done every year, you see the coalfields the southern West Virginia is where that burden of chronic disease is the highest."
"That’s where the most diabetes cases are cardiovascular disease stroke. So we really wanted to work especially in McDowell and in the southern part of the state to really work within the local communities to help them transform their neighborhoods.”
The goal is to improve the overall health of the region by supporting healthier nutrition options.
“Unhealthy environment plays a role in obesity heart disease asthma stroke in any number of chronic diseases, cancer," she said. "If we can really transform these communities so the healthy choice is the easy choice and it’s readily available then we will be able to reverse those trends for all those chronic diseases.”
Farley said the CDC has some specific guidelines for improving healthy choices such as putting healthier choices like fresh fruit at the checkout isles of grocery stores and convenient stores, and adding debit/EBT machines at farmers markets.
“Making very small changes can make a big difference," she said, "like with the EBT machines for people that could have SNAP benefits they could use those to buy fresh produce instead of the unhealthy options that are much more easily available n convenience stores so really just making that whole transformation.”
Farley and other team members managing the grant attended a meeting last week with McDowell and Wyoming County leaders to develop healthy community alliances. She says it’s important to get locals involved and hopes to capitalize on efforts already underway in these regions.
“If a community has a great market and has a great park and walking trail for that community," she said, "we might want to replicate that in the other areas and use that as a model and use that as an example of what’s really worked."
"Our first key is what’s out there and then the second part is going to be networking that into what has worked and how we can make very small changes that can transform an entire neighborhood or an entire community or an entire county.”
Farley says she fought to designate $3,000 of the grant for local coalitions.
She says Kanawha County has access to more resources than most counties in the coalfields. That’s why the Kanawha’s health department director decided not to take those dollars.
However, other money went to four team members who live in Kanawha County. That’s disappointing to Marsha Timpson ,co-executive director of Big Creek People in Action, a non-profit organization in McDowell County that works on a variety of housing, education, social service and community projects. She also attended the meeting.
“I get bent out of shape," she explained, "when people do not even live, it goes beyond the community as leaders, people sit in Charleston and Washington and make decisions on what is best for the people in War West Virginia. I don’t think so!"
"They don’t know War West Virginia. They don’t know the people there."
Timpson says in McDowell County it’s historically been tough to be a leader.
“The issues and challenges I think we are facing in leadership is for generations not just for years, for generations leadership was almost like an inheritance you inherited the right to be a leader in your community," she said.
“It was almost like you had this elite group of people they set at the head of the tables and they made decisions and other people went with it and I think they did that because as I say this doesn’t go back to them. This goes back to generations that goes back to our heritage that goes back to the coal operators that came in here.”
“They took care of everything in the community they took care of you they took care of your homes, they took car of water lines sewer lines they also controlled everything. They controlled the teachers the preachers they controlled everything, who was going to live in what house they controlled everything so it was almost like steeped in people to let certain people make decisions for them.”
Timpson now sits at the head of the table, but she hasn’t always been a bold person.
“I did it at these meetings," she said, "I’d get at the back seat and I felt I was not intelligent enough I was not educated enough and I what did I know these people were so they would know better what was best for me."
"Well I’ve outgrown that. I have discovered they do not necessarily know what’s better for me. And I have found my voice and now what I would love to do is and I think what Big Creek People in Action we love to empower every to find their voice.”
Farley says she sent the postings for these jobs to every local health department and no one applied from Southern West Virginia. She says she hopes to see local coalitions get involved but plans to implement the healthier options at grocery and convenience stores among other things regardless.
While the coalition money is a small part of the grant, Farley says it’s more about people, policy and environment change by empowering local health departments.