AmeriCorps Members Promote Healthy Futures in West Virginia as Community Health Developers, Lifestyle Coaches

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This June, we’ll be featuring stories of AmeriCorps State service programs operating in the Healthy Futures focus area. AmeriCorps programs often play a key role in promoting health within a state, from coordinating community gardening, delivering summer meals, to promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, and fitness. Learn more at nationalservice.gov/focus-areas/healthy-futures. #HealthyFutures

WEST VIRGINIA. The West Virginia Community Health AmeriCorps Developer (WVCHAD) Program is an AmeriCorps State program funded through the Volunteer West Virginia state service commission and operated by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department (MOVHD). The mission of the department overall is to provide access to quality health care and education for core public health services, including preventive health, for citizens residing in Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood Counties in West Virginia. This mission is accomplished through partnerships, collaborative relationships, community involvement, stakeholder input and guidance from a diverse Board of Health comprised of two members from each of the counties and cities served by the department.

One key way MOVHD accomplishes its mission is through AmeriCorps. WVCHAD  AmeriCorps members serve as Healthy Community Developers offering lifestyle programs including: Chronic Disease Self-Management, Diabetes Self-Management and National Diabetes Prevention Programs. These programs have proven to decrease weight, blood pressure and medications.

On top of all that, some WVCHAD AmeriCorps members focus on healthy outcomes in times of disaster! This done by assisting the state’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) coordinator on Emergency Preparedness presentations to local organizations, giving talks and demonstrations at health fairs and other community events on preparedness, and recruiting Medical Reserve Corps volunteers.

WV Community Health Developers serve year-round and statewide across many sites. In its fifth year, the WVCHAD AmeriCorps program is meeting critical needs in the Healthy Futures focus area.

Too many West Virginians are struggling with chronic disease. The West Virginia population as a whole is at high risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer and early death because of physical inactivity, substance use and poor nutrition. Per America’s Health Rankings 2015 Annual Report, West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation for overall worst health determinants which are defined as the range of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence our health. This report also grades West Virginia 50th in the nation for diabetes, drug deaths, heart disease, high blood pressure, and smoking and poor physical health days, 49th for obesity, and 47th for physical activity.

By leveraging the power of AmeriCorps members to serve in local communities, West Virginia is improving health outcomes one West Virginian at a time. For example, one health program offered by WVCHAD Healthy Community Developers is a walking class. One participant started out very slowly and worked her way to walk one mile, three times per week, with her AmeriCorps Lifestyle Coach. Several months later, she came to the class so excited to share, “I was able to stand long enough to cook a meal for my family for the first time in over 10 years!”

The WVCHAD program is currently recruiting for its fifth cohort of AmeriCorps members in the 2017-2018 program year! Learn more and apply today at serviceyear.org/movhd/.

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AmeriCorps Members Promote Healthy Futures in West Virginia as Community Health Developers, Lifestyle Coaches

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