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Residents seeking better health

Mar. 18, 2010 @ 11:26 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Christie Kinsey is not from Huntington. In fact, in her 34 years in the area, she has had multiple opportunities to move elsewhere, but she's chosen to stay because she loves it here.

"When it comes right down to it, there's no reason to go anywhere else," she said.

But recent reports of the unhealthful nature of her adopted community trouble her -- enough that she decided to stand up and take an active role.

Kinsey was one of about 50 community representatives to take part in Thursday night's Healthy Huntington Task Force meeting sponsored by Ebenezer Medical Outreach at Huntington's Kitchen, 911 3rd Ave.

"I don't want to be on the negative side of this discussion. I'd like to be a positive voice for the community," she said. "We've got to take this thing that started with Jamie Oliver and see it for the incredible opportunity that it is to make something positive out of this and move forward.

"The fact that he chose to come here was probably heaven-sent."

Huntington's Kitchen, where Thursday's meeting was held, was used last year by celebrity chef Jamie Oliver to film a reality television show, "Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution," that will premiere in a sneak preview at 10 p.m. on Sunday, March 21, on ABC. Oliver was drawn to Huntington as a location for his healthy-cooking initiative after news reports in the national media pinpointed the Tri-State area, and Huntington in particular, as the unhealthiest city in the country.

The show will focus on Oliver's efforts in Huntington to promote healthier eating habits by encouraging food preparation from fresh ingredients.

The task force that met Thursday was created by Ebenezer Medical Outreach's executive director Yvonne Jones, who saw the need to open a dialogue about "thinking different and changing behaviors" in the hot-topic issue of health in Huntington.

"I started thinking about this in October and by February, I realized that nobody was stepping up and taking the initiative to start the process," she said. "Being called the most unhealthy city is a limit. We're going to show this country what a city can do when they decide to step up."

Jones sent letters to community, business and religious leaders throughout the area. Thursday's meeting was the result of those letters -- and the start of what she believes will be something big.

"This is what I was hoping for," said Jones, assessing the crowd. "The goal is for everyone in Huntington to be touched by this in some way, and these people are where it is going to start."

One by one, those in attendance introduced themselves -- registered nurses, retired professors, cooks, fitness directors, pastors, Realtors, food industry representatives, hospital employees -- and talked openly about their vision for a healthy Huntington.

"I'd like to see Huntington in the news for being healthy," said one. Another added, "I'm interested in protecting the image of my hometown." And another, "We can sit around the water cooler and debate this, but I want to take a more active role."

The participants broke into nine small groups representing different segments of the community, from business and education to religion and social services, to talk about what each group can bring to the table.

Floyd Metzger, chief executive officer of HIMG Regional Medical Center, said the medical community needs to use its resources in a preventative capacity to help the community, as well as a treatment-based capacity.

"Health care providers should absolutely be working in the area of preventative medicine despite the fact that we're in a treatment-oriented business. Disease doesn't stop. There will always be that side of things," he said, just as his small group broke apart to join the rest of the group. "But, we have certain resources -- from education to testing services to motivated staff -- to help make these changes. We may never reach everybody, but we can reach more parts of the whole."

The work groups each selected a leader and set up future individual meetings. Leaders will become part of the task force's steering committee and will report the results of their meetings to the entire task force, working alongside each other and hopefully, Jones desires, complementing each other's efforts.

"This first meeting is about mobilizing the community. There's no time like the present to ask, 'What can I do in my arena to start making a change?'" Jones said.

How you can get involved

Contact Ebenezer Medical Outreach to ask what you can do. Call Ebenezer at 304-529-0753 or e-mail director Yvonne Jones at yvonnejones@emohealth.org. You can also visit Ebenezer's Web site, www.emohealth.org.

Get plugged into a work group through the Healthy Huntington Task Force.

Share the importance of making lifestyle changes in diet and exercise with people around you.



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