Several West Virginia entities want to see area students and parents get fit, and a first step toward making that happen has been taken by Marshall County Schools.
After reviewing a proposal submitted Dec. 16, West Virginia School Building Authority Director Mark Manchin approved plans to have a prototype "exergaming facility" constructed at Cameron High School.
The project is a collaborative effort of the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency, the Northern West Virginia Rural Health Education Center, the West Virginia University School of Medicine and Tygart Valley Rehabilitation and Fitness. The approval was given during a meeting Manchin had with representatives from those entities and Marshall County Schools administrators.
According to PEIA Health Promotions Director Nidia Henderson, the facility would include exercise equipment designed to get today's students and parents, who are likely to spend most of their time using a computer or video game system for entertainment, up and moving. The equipment would include a Nintendo Wii System, an interactive Sportwall 2 (training) system, 6 Cateye Gamebikes, exercise balls, jump ropes and other items. Polar Heart Rate monitors would be used to monitor safety during exercise. Because the facility will also serve as a learning laboratory, the monitors will also be used to enhance the data collected regarding the effects on health and fitness.
Once completed, the facility could be available to students, parents and faculty before school and during afterschool activities. Part of the plan is also to make it available for physical education classes and for community members.
"This will be the prototype facility in the state," Henderson said, noting it will be the first of its kind in West Virginia. She said the school was chosen because of the Marshall County Board of Education's 2008 vote to construct a new school.
According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Marshall County residents ranked 12th among state counties at risk for diabetes. Additionally, 21.3 percent of residents were listed in the study as having fair or poor health. The study also reported that 26.3 percent did not participate in "leisure exercise" and 22.8 percent were classified as obese.
The overall study for the state found that 24.3 percent of West Virginians were in fair or poor health, 28.2 percent received no leisure exercise and 27.7 percent were obese.
"We have very high rates of obesity and diabetes," Henderson said of the state.
The 2007 West Virginia Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 15 percent of high school students in the state were obese, 57 percent did not meet recommended daily physical activity levels, 75 percent did not attend physical education classes daily and 28 percent played video or computer games (not school related) for more than three hours per day. It also found that 80 percent of the students did not eat the recommended five fruits and vegetables per day, and 46 percent drank a can of regular soda at least once a day.
Northern West Virginia Rural Health Education Center Director of Development Parr Thacker said the recent reports are the main reason why the groups came together.
"(We) wanted to look at intervention to reverse this," Thacker said. "This is a new solution of reversing trends of a sedentary lifestyle. It's a cutting-edge technology."
In addition, Henderson said that by adding more physical education to a student's day, academics are expected to improve.
The project, which is expected to cost nearly $58,000, will be funded through the SBA and the four entities named, Henderson said. A projected timetable was not available.