BECKLEY, W.Va. — Addressing issues that are problems across West Virginia gave Wednesday's "Our Children, Our Future" workshop a broad scope of interest and attracted more than 100 activists and community leaders to the day-long workshop.
The West Virginia Coalition for Healthy Kids and Families, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and 35 other organizations sponsored Beckley's "Our Children, Our Future" workshop. Issues discussed at the workshop ranged from physical activity and physical education in the schools to substance abuse to comprehensive community revitalization.
The policy workshops are part of OCOF's plan to build momentum aimed at getting policy changes through the state Legislature next year. Kent Spellman, executive director of The Hub, based in Fairmont, said the "Our Children, Our Future" campaign has driven a great deal of policy talk around the state in recent months.
Momentum-building efforts ranged from chanting "I can, you can, we can!" to group sessions that explored a total of seven issues.
Dr. Jamie Jeffrey led the group session on child obesity. "I'm a pediatrician and I have to go back to school to learn about high blood pressure and diabetes!" she said.
Jeffrey is project director of KEYS 4 HealthyKids, an initiative aimed at reversing child obesity by 2015. She pointed out that a study published last weekend by the Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that West Virginia is the fourth most obese state in the nation.
Since 1960, childhood obesity rates have tripled. "How have we allowed our children to suffer like this?" Jeffrey said. "Obesity is not an adjective, it is a disease. The diabetes curve mirrors the obesity curve. West Virginia continues to be No. 1 in adult diabetes."
The Keys 4 HealthyKids program is advocating a program called "5-2-1-0," which is shorthand for "five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day; two hours or less each day of recreational screen time; one hour or more each day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity; and zero sugary drinks."
Jeffrey and the group that worked with her agreed to focus on policies that promote physical activity and physical education in the schools.
The Rev. James Patterson, president of the Partnership for African-American Churches at Institute, spoke about substance abuse policies. "The consciousness of the dominant culture around us is a 'war on drugs,' " he said. "I want to evoke a consciousness of an 'army for recovery.'
"We're really good at locking people up," he said. "We lock people up for having drugs. We lock people up for being with other folks who have drugs." The high rate of incarceration destroys families, he said. "There are 153,000 people waiting for treatment right now" in West Virginia.