Professionals from West
Schools of Public Health, Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Agricultural Sciences,
and Engineering are initiating a multi-faceted educational outreach program in
southern West Virginia dubbed
“Swivel” Southern West Virginia Lifestyles.
Dr. Michael McCawley of WVU’s School of Public Health is the
project leader. He says groups from WVU have been working in the area, looking
at some of the issues surrounding mountaintop removal mining practices. Those
studies included a variety of health surveys.
“We became starkly aware that the health of the people in
those southern counties was pretty bad and that they were much worse,
generally, than most of the people in the rest of the United States,” says
McCawley. “So we became concerned that not only were there environmental
concerns in the area but certainly there were other medical issues that might
be attributable to lifestyles.”
McCawely says the more they engaged community members the
more important intervention seemed to become, and since many Health Science
students were from Wyoming County, it became a natural place to start.
After meeting with many community leaders and officials it
became apparent that addressing health problems the county faces required many
approaches and a long-term commitment.
“‘Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, teach a man to
fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime.’ We think that the information that we have
will prove, I hope, useful to the people down there in looking at their
lifestyle and changing portions of their lifestyles that might not be as
healthy as they could be.”
McCawley says his group will be set up at the Wyoming County
fair looking for about 150 Core Community Members who are motivated to get
involved in various forms of training. He hopes those residents will be able to
more readily reach the roughly 2600 people living in the county who would
benefit from learning about healthier lifestyle opportunities.
McCawley says the school of Nursing is interested in addressing
the issue of prenatal care; Ag Science nutritionalists want to set up food
co-ops and create cookbooks that offer healthy, traditional recipes;
engineering students and professionals want to tackle the pressing issue of
fresh water supplies. Some other projects include smoking cessation programs, prescription
drug addiction counseling, building recreational areas, and dental hygiene
SWVL also hopes to coordinate with other work going on in
the area. The School of Osteopathic Medicine, for example, is training and certifying Health
Promoters. McCawley hopes these Health Promoters will be able to
work with trained Core Community Members and increase the efficiency of
everyone who is trying to change the health scene.
McCawley even sees potential to create “cottage industry” in
these areas that lack economic diversity, especially given recent development
plans for the 10-thousand-acre Boy Scout Camp in Fayette County.
“One of the things people said was that, ‘If we’re going to
be healthy, we’re going to need a healthier economy,’ McCawley remembers. “I
think that giving them this training prepares them to do something like a spa
and resort area that would be right next to this Boy Scout area where a lot of
tourists are going to be coming. It could create a small economy opportunities
in people’s homes.”
Long term, the hope is that southern West Virginia will gain
a reputation as a place that practices healthy living and can attract visitors
to come there for healthy living experiences. McCawley says they are starting
their efforts in Wyoming County, but they hope to create similar programs in
all of the southern counties.