Congratulations to Mingo County and all those working on Sustainable Williamson, an effort that recently won a prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize.
The foundation elevated Williamson among six communities across the country worthy of the award — $25,000 — for efforts to nurture health among residents. And those efforts are inspiring to any community wanting to better itself:
| In recent years, students at Tug Valley High School have grown vegetables in agriculture, horticulture and greenhouse classes and then sold them at the local farmer’s market.
| The town developed running and walking groups, including Tuesday Night Track, for people of various fitness levels to compete for fun.
| Prescription Vegetables partners local doctors, farmers and diabetes patients. Doctors actually prescribe vegetables as part of treatment, and patients receive vouchers to buy them.
Aside from the obvious health benefits of eating more vegetables and getting exercise, all this activity spills over into economic concerns as well. Not only are the usual health-focused groups involved, but also local economic development interests. Williamson is looking to more diversified energy jobs and opportunity in local food production.
Think of the lessons and examples set for young people, and what new health habits, expectations and possibly even marketable skills and entrepreneurship they will take into adulthood.
As anyone who has ever tried to start a good habit knows, success can be contagious. And one of the most encouraging features of Williamson’s success is that it has been built gradually in recent years by local people. It is not a temporary blip thanks to a seed grant or pilot project that will wither and disappear at the end of a grant cycle.
If Williamson can make such changes, in not the best economic times, in not the most prosperous region, what might other communities do?