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Kanawha Co. Forum Identifies Drug Abuse, Obesity Among Top Concerns

Reported: Apr. 22, 2014 10:28 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (Kera Mashek)
Helping improve the health of our community is the goal of an area coalition. Armed with new research, Groups of health experts and local residents are coming together to find solutions to the region's biggest health concerns.

Every three years, the Kanawha Coalition for Community Health Improvement pulls together results from surveys of people who live here..to find out what the area's biggest health problems are. The top concerns really aren't too surprising, but a forum Tuesday night will serve as a launching pad to generate ideas and initiatives aimed at helping solve those problems.

It's rare a week goes by that we don't report on drug arrests. So it's no surprise that people in Kanawha County identify drug abuse as one of the community's top health concerns. In fact this year, prescription pill abuse ranked at an all-time high on the survey. The second chief concern identified is obesity. A lot of people point both problems back to one underlying issue.

"The whole issue this time that really came out was poverty and unemployment and job creation as a real need for us in Kanawha County, and that certainly impacts a lot of issues," said Brenda Grant, CAMC chief strategist.

At a forum assembled Tuesday night, more than a hundred different community stakeholders from health experts to local residents started to hash out the reasons obesity and drugs continue to be a problem here so that hopefully they can work toward solutions.

"We'll put work groups together around those, put together an action plan and really do a lot of work over the next three years to reduce those, and we feel it's really important we get the buy-in from the community. We want to know what they want us to work on. I mean there's a lot of issues out there, but what do we have the energy and desire to really focus on," said Grant.

Ultimately their proposals will turn into legislative and community initiatives they can undertake. While they know the problems won't completely go away, they're optimistic that progress can be made.

"Maybe we're making a little progress, inch by inch. It's not like an overnight thing that we can change, but hopefully some ideas will come out of here tonight that can be applied and would make a difference or at least get us headed in that direction," said Linda St. Clair, West Virginia Department of Education child nutrition specialist.

There's good reason to think the coalition will have some success. Previous working groups were instrumental in Kanawha County's smoking ban..which is credited with helping drop local tobacco use rates.

If you'd like to get involved in this year's working group, you can call Judy Crabtree at (304) 388-7557.



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