MASON COUNTY — As obesity and diabetes continue to be an issue across the country and the state of West Virginia, local efforts have been made to reverse those statistics and provide healthier options.
According to Sara Fitzwater, prevention coordinator for Mason County with Change the Future WV, local changes have already been made in increasing healthier options, one of which at Mason Walmart. Walmart recently established a Healthy Checkout, where items such as candy bars and other snack items are replaced by healthier items including fresh fruit and other healthy snacks, 100 percent fruit juice, water, as well as toys that require physical activity like jump ropes and balls. Fitzwater also said Walmart has placed fresh produce in their meat and cereal aisles.
Another initiative gaining steam is the Mason County Diabetes Wellness Coalition, which meets at 4 p.m. on every fourth Thursday of the month, at the Mason County Courthouse Annex. Fitzwater said topics in these meetings include the navigation of healthcare and programs and physical activity for individuals with diabetes.
“We want to capture all the opportunities of assistance for Mason County residents with diabetes, or family members with diabetes and make it simple to find help,” Fitzwater said.
In addition to these improvements, Fitzwater is also asking for help amongst local citizens to encourage more stores and locations to make these small changes to help improve the health of the community. Fitzwater listed some ways locals could help, including asking store owners and managers to offer a healthy checkout, as well as providing positive feedback on existing healthy checkouts.
Fitzwater also mentioned another work in progress, called the fresh fruit and vegetables initiative which is focused on local convenient stores, particularly ones located in rural areas far away from grocery stores. Through this project, Fitzwater said Change the Future WV will provide the producer who will provide fruits and vegetables to these local convenient stores, thus increasing opportunities to make healthier choices for community members who often shop at these locations. Fitzwater said Mason County does not have a store to implement this program as of yet.
Change the Future WV is a CDC-funded grant across the state with three strategic directions, to promote tobacco-free environments, healthy eating and physical activity, and chronic disease management. Fitzwater also noted they provide marketing materials for stores participating in their initiatives.
For more information, visit www.changethefuturewv.org.