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Coach Mary Cuda offers advice and tips to members of a new community team during their first Blueprint Communities meeting, organized by the West Virginia HUB. (Photo: Kate Long)

By the end of 2013, about 70 West Virginia towns had gone through the Main Street and Blueprint Communities community development programs. In both programs, a team of people from community groups, business, local government and other sectors and plan together for a healthier, more prosperous future.

Healthy lifestyles is part of the planning. “It’s a no-brainer,” said administrator Monica Miller. “Fitness and economic development go hand in hand. Companies want to locate in places with a healthy work force and active lifestyle. Things like hiking and hiking and farmers markets are attractive to their employees.”

“When we went through the Hub program, we realized how much more we could get done if we worked together,,” Williamson Mayor Darrin McCormick said.  People from business, city government, schools, running groups, garden club, etc., now routinely plan together, emphasizing health. “Our health statistics were awful,” McCormick said. “As we become healthier, we become more attractive for economic development.”

Working together, they have developed farmers markets, community gardens, anti-diabetes classes, community running programs and a new federally-funded health center. In 2014, they were one of six cities nationwide to receive the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Award. “We could never have done all this if we’d kept working in our separate silos,” McCormick said.

 

Want community development training to help create a healthier community?

 

  • First, form a planning group. All community development (and many grant) programs will require it. Pull together people from a variety of parts of your community: community groups, schools, churches, individual citizens and retired people, local government, etc. See the “create a planning group” page.
  • Inventory your assets, what you’ve already done: list facilities, groups, accomplishments.
  • Use the Try This checklist to inventory what you’ve already done and prioritize projects for a community healthy lifestyle plan.
  • Consider applying to these West Virginia community development programs:
    • The West Virginia HUB Blueprint program. For Blueprint, you assemble a group from various parts of the community: schools, churches, recreation,  government, etc. A Blueprint coach is assigned to your community group to help you make a plan and carry it out. The coach helps you find resources and keeps you focused on your plans, but doesn’t tell you what your plan should be.  http://wvhub.org/blueprint

      Caption

      Communities that receive a Main Street healthy lifestyles grant meet for training and brainstorming at the beginning of the grant period. (Photo: Kate Long)

    • The Main Street program (Department of Commerce): Historically about revitalization and historic preservation, the Main Street program has started requiring grantees to include a health component, recognizing that healthy lifestyles programming translates into economic development.   Check with the program director:  1-800-982-3386  http://www.wvcommerce.org/people/communityresources/communityrevitalization/mainstreetwestvirginia/default.aspx
    • KEYS 4HealthyKids:  www.keys4healthykids.com  This community grant program includes community development trainings that incorporate  and focus on young people. www.keys4healthykids.com/toolkit.
    • The Healthy Lifestyles program of the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health can send a coach to your group to walk you through the CHANGE healthy lifestyle inventory, designed to help you list your assets, review possible steps, and make a plan. Http://www.wvohl.com  + Jessica.g.wright@wv.gov.
    • What works for America: A national program that helps communities think through the ways community health and poverty are intertwined: http://www.whatworksforamerica.org/

Related Try This pages: Community conversation, start a healthy communities group

 

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