Fayette, Raleigh, Summers, and Nicholas counties in southern West Virginia have been selected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to participate as a pilot program to help residents lead healthier lifestyles.
The Move Your Way campaign is designed to help residents understand how much physical activity they need to be healthy and how to fit the recommended amount into their daily lives, according to Melanie Seiler, executive director of Active Southern West Virginia.
The department piloted the campaign in two U.S. communities in 2019 but added another eight, including the four counties in West Virginia, thanks to the efforts of ActiveSWV, which provides opportunities for free physical activity to improve workforce health.
Brett Giroir, M.D., the department's Assistant Secretary for Health, spoke to the pioneering efforts in the eight communities that had attracted national attention.
"The eight pilot communities selected to implement the Move Your Way campaign this year have a vital role in increasing the awareness of the profound health benefits of physical activity,” Giroir said.
“We’re learning from these communities, and their participation and pioneering efforts will set an example for all communities throughout America on how to encourage everyone to meet the physical activity guidelines.”
The active-living organization that attracted the department, ActiveSWV has pioneered its initiative by training and certificating community captains—volunteers who lead safe, high-quality recreation programs in which friends, families, co-workers, and neighbors may engage, Seiler says.
“While working to improve the health of the workforce, Active Southern West Virginia sees the value in our volunteer community captains choosing to lead activities of their interest and in place and times convenient to them," Seiler said.
"This strategy of incorporating physical activity into everyday lives with peer-to-peer leadership is further supported by the resources and tools within the Move Your Way campaign.”
The free programs are now offered at parks, schools, workplaces, and government venues across the four counties.
The partnership also engages the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, West Virginia University Institute of Technology, and the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve, Seiler said.
Joe Brouse, executive director of the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority, emphasized the economic development aspect of the campaign and the active-living initiative.
“We recognize that new businesses and employers require a healthy, functioning workforce in order to grow and thrive," Brouse said
"The work of the Active Southern West Virginia team supports and transitions the existing and potential workforce into productive, contributing individuals, which is an attractive incentive to companies and businesses interested in locating within the New River Gorge region."
The public is being invited to participate in the Move Your Way launch event during the first week of March.
Free programs will be offered each day of the week March 1-7 in Fayette and Raleigh counties, though participants may also record activity performed on their own time.
Participants are being asked to track their activity to meet the recommended physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes weekly for adults.
Awards and raffles will be given to those participating. Additional events will be offered throughout the year.