HEAL Appalachia Symposium encourages community groups to combat childhood obesity


2013 grant winners announced

KINGSPORT, Tenn. – The fourth annual HEAL (Health Eating, Active Living) Appalachia Symposium was held on Wednesday, bringing together community groups and individuals in the fight against childhood obesity.

The symposium, held at Marriott MeadowView Conference Resort & Convention Center, was a chance to connect regional children’s health advocates with each other while letting them hear national experts on the subject. HEAL organizers put forth a 5-2-1-0 call to action, based on a national program that encourages kids each day to have:

5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables

2 hours or less of recreational screen time

1 hour or more of vigorous exercise

0 sugary drinks, more water and low-fat milk

Today is the next step for HEAL Appalachia,” said Bo Wilkes, one of the event organizers and the Planning Manager and Governance Excellence Coordinator at Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA). “We want 5-2-1-0 to be a call to action, a time we can all come together and truly make a difference. We can all create small changes that make one big impact.”

Winners of 19 community grants were announced – four grants at $5,000 apiece and the others worth $2,000 each. The funding goes to specific programs in the Southwest Virginia and Northeast Tennessee region that help promote healthy children. This year HEAL Appalachia also announced two new “5210” grants, each worth $5,210 and funded by United Way of Virginia Highlands and MSHA.

Application deadline for the new 5210 grants is May 17.

The goal of HEAL Appalachia is to assist the region in attaining the highest possible level of health through healthy eating and active living initiatives. It is collaboration between MSHA and East Tennessee State University, along with other regional partners.

The symposium featured speakers were:

  • Rick Fortier, program manager for the Let’s Go! School program in Maine, who talked about his program’s efforts to help schools increase healthy eating and active living;
  • Ron Fink, School Nutrition Program Director for Bristol Tennessee City Schools, who spoke on the challenges and triumphs of trying to bring healthy, tasty foods to schools in Bristol;
  • Stephanie Cihon, from the Midwestern health system ProMedica, who told about ProMedica’s obesity prevention initiative called Fields of Green.

All emphasized the importance of working together and of increasing education on healthy eating.

I think a lot of people honestly do not know what good nutrition is,” Fink said. “Cooking and fresh products are foreign to many people. We need to train kids and parents about this and change the culture about what they eat, not just at school but also at home.”

Winners of the 2013 HEAL Appalachia community grants are:



For more information, visit www.healappalachia.com. Questions or comments for HEAL Appalachia should be directed to communitygrants@msha.com.


Back to News Listing