In the United States, 7 of the 10 leading causes of death are due to chronic illnesses that can often be prevented by adopting healthy behaviors and reducing health risk factors such as tobacco use, physical inactivity, poor nutrition, and obesity. In addition to reducing risk factors, adherence to preventive screenings and care can greatly reduce the incidence of chronic disease and greatly improve quality of life. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Almost one third of adults living in the Roanoke Valley are obese with the highest rates of obesity found in the City of Roanoke (36%) and Craig County (30%) while more than a quarter of the adult population is physically inactive (County Health Rankings 2014).
Food deserts are areas where residents are poor, lack transportation, and have limited access to supermarkets thus greatly limiting their ability to get healthy foods. In the City of Roanoke, there are four census tracts (5, 11, 25, and 26) that are designated as food deserts where 100% of residents have no access to supermarkets or large grocery stores (USDA, 2011).
In the 2012 Roanoke Valley Community Health Needs Assessment, stakeholders and providers cited the need for a “Culture of Wellness” in the Roanoke Valley where we empower residents to become partners in their own health and where wellness initiatives have the greatest impact on the health of the community.
Healthy Roanoke Valley Goal and Program Strategy
- Wellness Goal: To create and sustain a culture of wellness where all residents have access to, education about, and are empowered to consume a healthier diet, engage in physical activity, and make informed choices to achieve optimal physical and mental health.
- Wellness Program Strategy: Support existing and new programs at schools, community- and faith-based sites, and at the workplace that:
- Improve access to healthy foods;
- Offer physical activity and health promotion opportunities; and
- Align with strategies to reduce risky behaviors primary in youth and young adults.
- Reduce the number of children, youth, and adults who are obese.
- Reduce the number of adolescents reporting substance use in the past month.
Action Team Initiatives
- Fruits & Veggie Prescription Program (FVRx): The FVRx program is modeled after Wholesome Wave – a national program that has demonstrated success in reducing obesity rates in program participants. Our program will provide nutrition and other health education to adults in a primary care setting who are at risk for, or have diabetes, and will connect these participants to fresh food using a mobile farmer’s market. Participants will be given prescriptions/vouchers to purchase food at the farmers’ markets. Participants will be followed on a monthly basis to check their blood sugar, blood pressure, and their height and weight. We plan to pilot this program in the Summer of 2015.
- Eat a Meal with Your Family: Data has shown that children who regularly eat dinner with their families are less likely to participate in risky behavior. With the Prevention Council of Roanoke County taking the lead, the Wellness AT will continue to support the Eat Dinner With Your Family week scheduled in September 2015. The 2014 program was very successful – roughly 7,000 households were reached out to. Families were given an opportunity to take the week long pledge. Forty-eight percent (48%) of the families that participated used the “conversation starters” from the program booklet; 60% reported actually preparing the meal together as a family; and 85% of families reported spending at least 20 active minutes together (walking, biking, etc.).
- Healthy Start Initiative: The Wellness Action Team actively supports the Healthy Start initiative and their partners who work to increase knowledge about nutrition, teach cooking skills, increase access to fresh fruits and vegetables, and connect TAP Head Start preschoolers, Roanoke City Public school children, and their families to healthy resources in the community.