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Editorial: State's initiatives to combat obesity gaining attention

Nov. 17, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

A few years ago, West Virginia was in the spotlight — whether it wanted to be or not -- as a place where obesity is a severe problem. A wire service story suggested that the Huntington region was among the most obese in the nation, and British celebrity chef Jamie Oliver came to the city in 2009 to film an unscripted television show about how the region could combat obesity.

All that attention added more fuel to already existing efforts in the region and across the state to promote healthier eating and more exercise. Now, the state is gaining some accolades for its work.

The Alliance for a Healthier Generation, founded in 2005 by the American Heart Association and former President Bill Clinton's foundation to combat childhood obesity, recently recognized four West Virginia schools for creating a healthier atmosphere for students.

Two were in Cabell County -- the Cabell County Alternative School and Salt Rock Elementary. The others were Mountain View Elementary School in Hurricane and Woodsdale Elementary in Ohio County.

Oliver's TV show, which aired in 2010, focused on healthier school lunches, and Cabell County Schools responded with aggressive efforts to include more fresh foods on the school menu. The Cabell County Alternative School also has benefited from the presence of health education teacher Lisa Riley, whom the alliance recognized late last year for her previous work at Enslow Middle School.

The alliance noted several positive developments in the Mountain State. Among them were the establishment of school wellness councils, ending soft drink sales at schools in a large majority of counties and being the second state in the nation to plan an initiative to promote physical activity.

The positive recognition is a welcome change from the negative attention of a few years ago. More importantly, it's good to see that West Virginia and its schools are taking positive steps toward healthier living.

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