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Huntington-Ashland Area Ranked Last In Well-Being Index

Reported: Mar. 25, 2014 5:26 PM EDT
Updated: Mar. 25, 2014 6:28 PM EDT
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HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (Darrah Wilcox) -- Another year, another survey ranking Huntington last in a negative category. A newly released Gallup poll puts the Huntington-Ashland metro area last for its Well-Being Index.

Dan Witters, Research Director for the Gallup Healthways Well-being Index, said, "Huntington has been at or near the bottom of our annual ranking since we started this back in 2008. That doesn't mean there aren't good people in the Huntington Ashland metro area, sure there are, but from a perspective of well-being, it's low, and we find this very consistently."

Huntington mayor Steve Williams said it's frustrating to hear the news. "It's just downright aggravating, because I know what we have, we all know what we have here," he said.

Witters says they reached out to 558 people in the Huntington Ashland metro area, using a random mix of landline and cell phone numbers to make calls for the survey. The survey lasted about ten to 12 minutes, asking 55 questions about everything from work environment, to emotional and physical well-being. The questions were mostly close-ended, but there were some that had a scale of 11 points with confined parameters, such as how many days a week do you do exercise?

Huntington's Kitchen is touted as a positive change in the past few years, along with the expansion of the local food market Wild Ramp soon into Central City.

While many would agree the area has much to offer, like Nathan Clark, who said there are plenty of parks and a good variety of food, his wife Christie said she wishes there were better jobs and more opportunities for young children to get involved in the community with their family.

By releasing the rankings, Witters said they hope to encourage places like Huntington to ramp up wellness efforts. "The first thing to do is to increase the awareness, and really start making some concerted efforts to address it, and I think it sounds like that's taking place, and I think that's all good and encouraging news," he said.

Witters said having leaders take action is extremely important. He said, "The next thing to try to do is try to to transform the culture of that area that says this is now something we're taking seriously, and this is something we think is important, and it's going to be part of our identity is now, is people who live in this area, and it's not something that's going to go away. This is now a permanent part of who we are, and that's having a higher well-being culture."

He said something that could easily transform well-being for folks here is to learn "new and interesting things". Witters said, "It's a really important psychological need. It's a really important part of emotional health. That's certainly an area they can focus on."

Mayor Williams says they'll use the rankings as a call to arms to improve even more areas. "We just use that as motivation and determination that we're not going to allow this to happen any more." He continued, "Let's identify some criteria that we know are measurable, and set out to prove them wrong, and start fixing some of these things."

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