The Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department has been awarded a $4.5 million prevention grant from federal stimulus money.

It is a community wellness program called Communities Putting Prevention to Work.

"This is the largest competitive grant awarded to West Virginia," said Dick Wittberg, executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.

The grant money is to be used in improving healthy lifestyles in Wood, Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane and Wirt counties.

The program is directed toward reducing obesity, increasing physical activity, improving nutrition, and decreasing smoking.

The $4.5 million grant will be spent in the six counties, over a two-year period and will equal to a little more than $16 per person a year.

The Calhoun Commission and Wittberg have locked horns over a continuing reduction of services to Calhoun, challenging the agency to advise how much money from the six-county budget was being spent to help the county.

In 2006, Wittberg recommended that Calhoun still have office space in Calhoun, but would not have it staffed. Providers of service would come to the office on a scheduled basis.

Commissioner Bob Weaver called that unacceptable, and asked Wittberg to capitate what funding should come to Calhoun.

The regional health department took the stance that it is serving a region, and declined to define what services should be specific for Calhoun.

The health department did restore some services, keeping the office open with limited staffing.



"With this (new) grant, we will have money to spend on wellness activities and institute policies such as menu labeling," Wittberg said. "We will also have money to promote healthy lifestyles."

The health department says it will be working with grocery stores and farmers markets as well as schools and booster organizations to promote and sustain policy and environmental change efforts, as they relate to physical activity and nutrition.

About two dozen jobs will be created.

Some WV counties are moving forward to improve school nutrition menus, after TV chef Jamie Oliver did a program in Cabell County schools, revealing what he called "the dump from a bag and eat" food that has little value in a nutritious diet.

Just what impact the program could have on improving school nutrition was not in the press release.

"Our most important goal is to use the money to create a lasting change," Wittberg said.

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