Thursday, June 26, 2014

Rural communities in West Virginia, New Mexico awarded for creating a culture of health

A pair of rural communities were among the six winners of the 2014 Culture of Health prizes given by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to areas that most exemplified innovative efforts to build healthier communities, says the foundation. Williamson, West Virginia, in Appalachian coal country, and Taos Pueblo, a Native American community in northern New Mexico, received the $25,000 award, along with Durham County, North Carolina; Buncombe County, North Carolina; Brownsville, Texas; and Spokane County, Washington. More than 250 communities entered the contest.

Sustainable Williamson
Williamson, which leads the state in obesity, hypertension and diabetes, has created initiatives to get residents involved in fitness and eating healthy. That includes running and walking groups like Tuesday Night Track, which allows people of different fitness levels to compete in races for fun, Lydia Nuzum reports for the Charleston Gazette. Williamson also began a farmers market three years ago, has plans for a food hub for locally grown food, and created Sustainable Williamson, which has already identified 22 farmers within a 70-mile radius who are willing to work with the community on its goals.

The local high school, which teaches agriculture, greenhouse and horticulture classes, sells plants they grow at the farmers market, Nuzum writes. The school, which recently completed work on its high tunnel and has even installed chicken coops, received a grant to participate in the Farm-to-School program next year.

Another program, Prescription Vegetables, "partners local physicians, farmers and diabetes patients," Nusum writes. "Doctors participating in the program actually prescribe vegetables to their patients as a treatment for managing their diabetes and give them vegetable vouchers, which can be exchanged for produce at the Williamson farmers’ market. The more health goals a patient meets, the more vouchers they earn." The town's next step is to create a community kitchen that can incubate healthy restaurants and other initiatives. (Read more)

Robert Wood Foundation photo/
Taos Red Willow Farm
In Taos Pueblo in 2010 the Red Willow Community Growers Cooperative’s mission was created "to revitalize the community’s agricultural-based heritage, which includes food production in fields, gardens, raised beds and greenhouses, as well as grassroots economic development through the Red Willow Farmers Market," says the foundation. "The goal of the Farmers Market and Co-op is to produce fresh and organic fruits and vegetables for families in the community, as well as the schools and senior programs. The Market also employs a number of high school students, reconnecting a younger generation with the cycles of planning, preparing the fields and the art of growing crops to supply markets with produce."

The pueblo has also made an effort to get the community involved in exercise through a fitness program, says the foundation. In a state where 30 percent of kidnergarten students are obese, 37 percent of those Native American, Taos Pueblo has sought to teach children about health, including using an indoor organic garden room, where students, parents and staff grow fresh produce, says the foundation.

Another key has been improving medical services, says the foundation. "Up until the last several years, if there was a medical emergency, Taos Pueblo residents had to wait 24 minutes or longer for first responders from the Town of Taos to arrive at the Pueblo to transport them to the nearest hospital. Three years ago, however, the Pueblo Health and Community Services created the Public Health Nursing Department in Taos Pueblo to address immediate community health needs. Now, the Pueblo’s public health nurse or two lay health workers provide first responder services when emergencies arise." (Read more)

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