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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia University is aiming to promote healthier lifestyles for children across the state.

The annual Health Sciences Technology Academy Biomedical Summer Institute camp, which wrapped up this year on Friday, looks to spread the word of positive messages and practices when it comes to tackling childhood obesity, with a little help from West Virginia students.

“I firmly believe that we have all we need in West Virginia, to make this state the best in the nation we just need to access our resources,” WVU Health Sciences Assistant Vice

President Ann Chester said during an appearance last week on WAJR-FM’s “The Gary Bowden Show.” “And our kids are our number one resource.”

Roughly 125 high school juniors from 26 counties across West Virginia attended this year’s camp, where they worked with WVU faculty and staff on a variety of aspects of health. This included topics such as exercise physiology, heart, lungs and organs, early childhood nutrition and physical activity.

“They’re working side by side with sociologist, epidemiologist, with bio-medical professionals in all kinds of different areas,” Chester said.

The goal for these juniors at the end of the camp is to try and implement parts of research projects, which aims to encourage healthier lifestyles in children by implementing parts of these projects into local after-school programs. The reason for this effort, according to Chester, are the kids’ ability to reach other students in their community in an effective manor.

“These kids are wonderful at helping communities make significant changes for the better at healthy living,” she said. “So what better thing to do than to train them in how to do science, in a way that makes it meaningful for them right in their home communities and they solve problems in the process.”

The target age group for these after-school programs will be preschoolers, where some pediatricians believe is the crucial age group for when it comes to developing healthy habits that will continue one throughout ones life. This initiative also comes at a time where West Virginia has a bit of an unhealthy reputation.

In a recent study from the CDC, West Virginia was found to have the highest obesity rates in the country. The hope is to avoid the situation by implementing these new ideas. One other aspect that HSTA looks to impact are the college numbers, which Chester says is just as crucial for the future of both the students and the state.

“A HSTA kid at the end of the program, if they’ve done everything that they need to do, gets a tuition waiver all the way through college,” she said. “So 99 percent of these kids go to college, and that’s in the state where 56 percent of our kids go to college.”

Associated Institution:
West Virginia University
News Contact:
Chester, Ann – PhD