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Communities key in health initiatives

Dec. 11, 2012 @ 11:30 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Tim Hazelett started his presentation with a simple, yet powerful statement. Speaking at the Huntington Health Revolution meeting Tuesday to re-energize the community to eat right and make healthy choices, Hazelett said, "If you came just to sit and listen, that's what we have to change."

Hazelett, the Region 4 director for Change the Future WV, is leading the charge to make not only Huntington but also the entire state more health-conscious about active living and healthy eating. Together with Sara Fitzwater and Heather Sammons, they make up the nine-county Region 4 team working to implement part of a Community Transformation Grant issued by the CDC to the entire state through 2016.

"We need community involvement. We're only going to see success with community involvement," Hazelett said. "We can see positive change, but not just with the three of us. There has to be ownership in the community."

Change the Future WV and Huntington Health Revolution are merging their efforts to effect positive health change in an area with a reputation for poor dietary, exercise and health statistics. On Tuesday, approximately 30 people met at Huntington's Kitchen to learn what they could do, in their corner, to make changes. Among them was a yoga instructor, an employee wellness program representative, Huntington's Kitchen volunteers, a Farm-to-School coordinator and volunteers from The Wild Ramp.

"It is going to take people working in all areas to make an impact across the community," said Yvonne Jones, director of Ebenezer Medical Outreach, which has been the driving force behind Huntington Health Revolution and its 90-day diet and exercise challenges to the community. The revolution's four areas of focus -- promoting physical activity, encouraging a healthy diet, increasing preventive screenings and decreasing risky health behaviors -- will receive a renewed focus as 2013 approaches and a new partnership with Change the Future WV is developed. Change the Future's goals include promoting clean indoor air and tobacco-free living, increasing healthy food options at community venues and making preventive services more available to prevent and control high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Team members have already been meeting with area health coalitions and are working with grocery and convenience stores to offer locally grown fruits and vegetables in conspicuous locations.

"We're trying to change the health behaviors and outcomes of our region. It's not going to happen overnight, but the health of our region truly is a priority," Jones said. "We need to see where we are and where we're going."

"Whatever it takes to make these changes, that's what we're going to do," Hazelett said.

Follow H-D reporter Beth Hendricks on Facebook or Twitter @BethHendricksHD.

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