At the turn of the 20th century, West Virginians were described as a lean ‘stomachless’ people. Now West Virginia leads the nation in obesity and diabetes. What changed? And what can we do?
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Before students at a Wood County West Virginia elementary school ever hit the books, they hit the gym for a half hour of physical activity, waking them up and getting them ready to learn.
Faced with a choice between diabetes and shedding pounds, eight inspiring, determined low-income West Virginians manage to lose an average of 71 pounds apiece in seven months, though they live a half hour from any interstate, gym, track or grocery store. As one health expert said, “They’ve saved other people’s lives. Now they’re saving their own.”
Inspired by The Shape We’re In, WVU multimedia students produced their own stories on the subject in 2012: a look at PEIA’s Weight Management Program, a woman who had bariatric surgery, and a woman who decided to become a dietician while she lost weight.
“The state’s obesity epidemic was a natural fit for us,” said MaryKay McFarland, project director.
Five Walmart and Foodland stores and several Kroger groceries in Parkersburg, West Virginia have transformed checkout lines into ‘healthy checkout lines,’ replacing candy bars and junkfood with apples, pears, bananas, jump ropes and other items that encourage a healthier diet and active lifestyle.