WVU and the Bureau of Public Health team up to make West Virginia healthier through physical activity

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia, as a whole, is moving one step closer to being healthier due to a new physical activity initiative that is a collaboration between West Virginia University and the West Virginia Bureau of Public Health.

The Take Back Our Health WV Initiative is in its inaugural grant funding year and has announced it will provide funding to 13 projects that improve the physical health of West Virginians around the state through bicycling, running, walking and exercise equipment. The initiative is being spearheaded by the WVU College of Physical Activity and Sports Sciences (CPASS) and funded by the Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease, which is part of the Bureau of Public Health.

Rachel Byrne, the project coordinator of the Take Back Our Health Initiative for CPASS, said each project will receive up to $5,000 and that there are three different areas of physical activity that they will cover.

“One is within the community, we are building the infrastructure with increasing bike and pedestrian infrastructure, that could be trail building, we have some trails that are rails to trails, and we’re also funding some small trails at schools and clinical health centers,” Byrne said. “And then we’re also funding projects that increase physical activity for children during the school day and beyond, that’s training teachers, increasing childcare capacity at the school locations. And then we’re also working with clinical aspects to increase physical activity in clinical settings but also having them prescribe physical activity as a way to combat obesity within the clinical setting as well.”

Byrne said the funds for this initial round have been allocated, however, if the initiative can prove to be successful they hope to expand it next year and for the foreseeable future to try and make the state healthier. By the looks of it, Byrne said, “they’re going to be really awesome projects” which she said was indicative that the initiative could grow and keep getting funding from the Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease.

Nationally, Byrne said, West Virginia leads the way in obesity and obesity-related diseases, however, that fact often overshadows the great work that is being done to combat obesity and other diseases, which is one of the main goals of the initiative. The initiative hopes to shine light and expand on the great work that is already being done she said.

“Some of these folks have really great ideas,” Byrne said. “They just need this little bit of funding to boost their ideas and so we believe here that if we empower the community that they’re going to quite literally take back their health. We’re really excited to put the wind in the sails of the community champions and get them out there being healthy.”

List of 13 projects being funded:

  • City of Wheeling Parks and Recreation: Improve bike infrastructure in Wheeling with re-installment and improvement of bike lane pavement marking. 
  • City of Buckhannon: Connect the central hub of downtown Buckhannon and popular trailheads by mapping routes using kiosks, wayfinding signs and painting sidewalks and streets.
  • Monongahela River Trails Conservancy: Connect the Deckers Creek Rail Trail to a Reedsville neighborhood and community park by building a trail connector. 
  • Williamson Health and Wellness Center: Improve trail awareness and signage, and establish a Storybook Walking Trail in west Williamson through a student-led project and community volunteer workdays. 
  • City of Oak Hill: Increase signage and mapping on the White Oak Rail Trail, Harlem Heights Loop Trail and trails in Needleseye Park to promote recreational trail use.
  • Kanawha State Forest Foundation: Install a wheelchair platform swing and other ADA-complaint playground equipment as well as a Braille activity board at the trail entrance. 
  • WVU Medicine Potomac Valley Hospital: Create community track in Mineral County and encourage use through clinical physical activity prescriptions and referrals. 
  • Shenandoah Community Health Foundation: Restore an existing trail in Martinsburg and encourage usage through clinical physical activity prescriptions and referrals. 
  • City of Sistersville and Sistersville General Hospital: Repair a walking trail in Sistersville that connects Prigga Park and a sporting field, and install outdoor walking equipment. 
  • Healthy Berkeley and University Healthcare Foundation: Improve and map trails in Poor House Farm Park and WVU Medicine Berkeley Medical Center, including a handicapped-accessible trail. 
  • Warwood School: Add a bike rack, provide helmets and bike locks and encourage use through student-led bike safety and bike-to-school programs. 
  • CHANGE Inc. and Weirton Elementary School-Based Health Center: Improve a trail at Weirton Elementary School and install exercise equipment on the trail for use by the school and community.

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