Viral Health Effort Via Twitter: Fit West Virginia (#FitWV)

Dawn Miller of the Charleston Gazette highlights the ongoing Fit West Virginia (#FitWV) effort ongoing via Twitter in her op-ed piece, West Virginians try to tip scales on obesity.

The idea was born back on West Virginia Day as a result of Jason Keeling asking his blog readers to discuss solutions to West Virginia’s problems in a post, West Virginia: Using Social Media for the Mountain State’s Betterment. In response, Skip Lineberg of Maple Creative responded with his post, A Fitter West Virginia.

As a result of that “healthy idea seed” being planted a core group of West Virginia tweeters have been regularly posting on Twitter using the hashtag #FitWV. The effort has created a viral movement of West Virginians supporting other West Virginians in making health choices, exercising regularly, etc. Hopefully, this positive discussion is bringing about positive change and support to those participating.

As the country discussed health care reform efforts like #FitWV should be made a part of the equation. As Jordan Shlain, MD says in his recent op-ed over at The Health Care Blog:

. . . Nowhere in this debate is the patient, the consumer, and the citizen: the American! We lack accountability, responsibility and civic sensibility. It is Joe Diabetic that snacks on ice cream, misses appointments and doesn’t take his insulin that increases the cost of health care. This diabetic will be admitted to your local ER with diabetic ketoacidosis and have many subsequent hospital admissions at our (read: your) expense, not his. This is a fundamental collective action problem.

Our town square is so big that we can get away with malfeasance to our village (and our country) with no shame. Yet, the forces of economics do not defy gravity and the cost of health care is now affecting all of us. Those of us that are untethered from the reality of cost are driving our health care ‘car’ into the ground. . .

If you use Twitter — please join the effort.

Dawn Miller also provides a link to some great new information from the Centers for Disease Control. The CDC released last month “Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States.”

Ms. Miller writes:

The CDC did all the research and evaluation work, so individual communities don’t have to. They assembled a group of people with experience in urban planning, nutrition, physical activity, obesity prevention and local government. The group reviewed a couple years’ worth of research, evaluated various tactics and settled on 24 recommendations. For each one, the CDC summarizes the evidence behind it and suggests ways to measure progress. Communities should:

1. Make healthier food and drinks available in public places. Schools are key, but think also of after-school programs, child care centers, parks, playgrounds, swimming pools, city and county buildings, prisons and juvenile detention centers.

2. Make healthier food more affordable in those public venues. Lower prices, provide discount coupons or offer vouchers for healthy choices.

3. Improve the availability of full-service grocery stores in underserved areas. One study of 10,000 people showed that black residents in neighborhoods with at least one supermarket were more likely to consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables than those in neighborhoods without supermarkets. Residents consumed 32 percent more fruits and vegetables for each additional supermarket in their census tract.

More supermarkets also raised real estate values, economic activity and employment and lowered food prices.

4. Provide incentives to food retailers — supermarkets, convenience stores, corner stores, street vendors — to locate in underserved areas or to offer healthier food and drinks. Incentives can be tax benefits and discounts, loans, loan guarantees, start-up grants, investment grants for improved refrigeration, supportive zoning and technical assistance.

5. Make it easier to buy foods from farms.

6. Provide incentives for the production, distribution and procurement of foods from local farms.

Did you know that the United States does not produce enough fruits, vegetables and whole grains for every American to eat the recommended amount of these foods? Dispersing agricultural production throughout the country would increase the amount of available produce, improve economic development and contribute to environmental sustainability.

7. Restrict availability of less healthy foods and drinks in public places.

8. Offer smaller portion options in public places.

9. Limit advertisements of less healthy foods and drinks.

10. Discourage people from drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.

11. Support breastfeeding, which appears to provide some protection from obesity later in life.

12. Require physical education in schools.

13. Increase the amount of physical activity in school PE programs. Modify games so that more students are moving at all times, or switch to activities in which all students stay active. Improving phys ed improves aerobic fitness among students.

14. Increase opportunities for extracurricular physical activity.

15. Reduce screen time in public settings. TV and computer time displaces physical activity, lowers metabolism, increases snacking and exposes children to marketing of fattening foods.

16. Improve access to outdoor recreational facilities, such as parks, green spaces, outdoor sports fields, walking and biking trails, public pools and community playgrounds. Access also depends on how close such places are to homes and schools, cost and hours of operation.

17. Support bicycling. Create bike lanes, shared-use paths and routes on existing and new roads. Provide bike racks near commercial areas. Improving bicycling infrastructure can increase how often people bike for utilitarian purposes, such as going to work and school or running errands.

18. Support walking. Build sidewalks, footpaths, walking trails and pedestrian crossings. Improve street lighting, make crossings safer, use traffic calming approaches. Walking is a regular activity of moderate intensity that a large number of people can do.

19. Locate schools within easy walking distance of residential areas.

20. Improve access to public transportation to increase biking and walking to and from transit points.

21. Zone for mixed-use development, including residential, commercial, institutional and other uses. This cuts the distance between home and shopping, for example, and encourages people to make more trips by foot or bike.

22. Enhance personal safety in areas where people are or could be physically active.

23. Enhance traffic safety in areas where people are or could be physically active.

24. Participate in community coalitions or partnerships.