Live Healthy Lynchburg was founded in 2012 – and has evolved to become a complex umbrella organization with numerous community partners. Our vision is Healthy Environment. Healthy lifestyles. Healthy Lynchburg. We are a resource for the entire community to encourage health in every citizen, at every gathering, every day. Our mission is to achieve positive health outcomes for the Lynchburg region through community partnerships that develop policies, systems, and environmental strategies. Click HERE to see our video!
Did you know that Lynchburg is an official Let’s Move city? What’s more, as of September 2016, we are one of only 78 communities in the US who have achieved gold medals in all 5 goals! Launched by First Lady Michelle Obama in 2010, Let’s Move! is a comprehensive health initiative, dedicated to solving the challenge of childhood obesity within a generation. In February 2012, Lynchburg became a Let’s Move! City, joining hundreds of communities across the country by pledging to take steps to prevent childhood obesity and make each community healthier for everyone. Let’s Move! encourages us to help early education and childcare providers incorporate best practices for nutrition, physical activity and screen time into their programs, to increase participation in the School Breakfast Program (SBP) and the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), to improve access to healthy, affordable foods (as well as knowledge about MyPlate and appropriate portion sizes), and to increase physical activity across our community.
In July 2013 members of the Live Healthy Lynchburg team were invited to a reception with the First Lady celebrating the “Let’s Move! City” campaign. The First Lady was direct in her comments. “Thank you… And keep going!” We had the opportunity to meet with concerned citizens from across the nation and were struck by similarities in the challenges that we and other communities face and in the solutions we are pursuing. Sidewalks, bike lanes, farmer’s markets, and breastfeeding promotion were all discussed. LHL team members were invited back to Washington DC in September 2015. and were delighted to achieve our 5th gold medal in July 2016! There are only 78 communities in the entire US who have 5 GOLD MEDALS! Our goal is for Lynchburg to continue to promote health every corner of our community.
For anyone interested in an endorsement by Live Healthy Lynchburg we want to be very clear. Our mission is to promote the pursuit of health through nutrition and exercise. Our medical review panel agrees with the American College of Family Physicians that the best way to lose weight is to “eat fewer calories and burn off calories.” Also “remember safe methods of losing weight take time but are worth the effort.” We do not support any diets, fads, or programs that require subscriptions, powdered nutrients, or packaged food. These tools may well help an individual lose weight, but none of these are sustainable nutrition. Similarly, while popular programs can be a jump start to health, often, they fail to represent sustainable exercise regimens. Therefore we will promote local activities and programs that are sustainable, that provide information to the consumer without creating dependence.
We were all stunned by the news in 2010. Lynchburg was nationally ranked as the 8th most obese metropolitan area in the US (Healthways-Gallop Poll, 2010). Meanwhile local pediatrician Dr. Rachel Gagen and cardiologist Dr. Mark Townsend were sharing mutual frustrations over their young patients suffering from typically adult problems, obesity, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. The two decided to start an obesity task force and were thrilled to get the support of then-mayor Joan Foster. Foster introduced them to health educator Leslie Hoglund and the ongoing efforts at the Lynchburg Health Department and the CDC-sponsored ACHIEVE community team to assess and strategize policy, system, and environmental changes to enable health in the city of Lynchburg. Next, Christine Kennedy, Executive Vice President of the Lynchburg Regional Chamber of Commerce, a member of the cross-sector ACHIEVE team helped the group address the needs of the local business community in the face of skyrocketing health care costs by creating the Work Healthy Coalition. Heather Brown from the City of Lynchburg, Department of Human Resources, volunteered to organize and lead efforts to reach our African American citizens in a culturally sensitive manner.
When former Mayor Foster gave her State of the City address in February 2012, she challenged the city to get fit. She pointed them to a new website developed specifically to remind the community of the myriad of existing opportunities to be healthy in our community, which had been named as the 2011 Most Outstanding Runner Friendly Community in America by the Road Runners Club of America. This website, a labor of love and energy and education, was born with four pillars of nutrition (Eat Healthy), physical activity (Play Healthy), workplace (Work Healthy), and schools (Learn Healthy). The Mayor’s challenge (inspired by Oklahoma City) to lose 12 tons in 2012 seemed daunting for a community where 1 in 3 children and 2 out of 3 adults are overweight. Yet the ticker at the top of the webpage hit 24,000 lbs lost in mid-August! With our first 100 mile challenge, the website was able to spur competition between over 100 companies.
Live Healthy Lynchburg is more than just a website, however. Thanks to an extremely generous grant from the Centra Foundation in 2012, we were able to spearhead several important projects and initiatives. As a Let’s Move City, we have a mission to focus on encouraging healthy early childhood nutrition; research shows that Breastfeeding decreases lifelong risk of obesity. Therefore, grant money was allocated to support Centra Virginia Baptist as it became a Baby Friendly hospital – only the 3rd in the commonwealth. Breastfeeding rates at hospital discharge have skyrocketed, and mothers and babies in our community are healthier. Another key issue is nutrition education in our schools. Grant money allowed us to publish a book written by Dr. Gagen and illustrated by local talent Stan Webb about walking in downtown Lynchburg. Over 6000 copies of Lynchburg Legs were given to all local elementary students to inspire them to get moving!
In 2013, we added our 5th pillar, Pray Healthy, to support and coordinate faith communities in their mission to support the health of their congregations. Faith communities are encouraged to sign a covenant pledging to make healthy food options available when the congregation gathers and to encourage active lifestyles. 8 churches signed on off the bat! We joined forces with the existing community ACHIEVE group to create a more diverse membership with the Virginia Department of Health as our backbone.
Another LHL partner, Lynchburg Grows, received grant funding to develop and operate a fruit and vegetable market on wheels; this was designed to serve citizens in our areas that lack access to healthy, affordable foods, known as food deserts. This renovated, wrapped van finally hit the streets in 2014! We hope to expand its route and its ability to connect with SNAP recipients. We have championed several more projects for expanded healthy food options including: SNAP at the downtown farmer’s market, GLTC Florida Avenue Grocery Route, and the Lynchburg Area Food Council. We have helped support 8 community gardens in our community: Daniel’s Hill “The Veggie Spot,” RSPayne Elementary School, Vector Space, Quaker Memorial Church, Sandusky Schools, Boys & Girls Club, Harvest House, and Bedford Urban Garden!
The Centra Foundation grant also allowed for representatives from all Lynchburg City elementary schools to receive training by Playworks, a national nonprofit program that partners with the Let’s Move campaign, on how to incorporate safe, healthy and inclusive play and physical activity at recess and throughout the entire school day. We are already seeing more active students in our schools! Our College Consortium has provided an opportunity for all of our local colleges to collaborate and share ideas and resources between students, faculty, and campuses.
2014 started with our first Healthy Plate Challenge in January; restaurants were encouraged to serve a healthy option based on MyPlate. Isabella’s Trattoria and Drowsy Poet Cafe were the winners! Our second annual Strive for Five challenge engaged over 800 participants and 86 organizations. In May 2014, a Gallup poll rated, Lynchburg the 37th Happiest and Healthiest among 189 metropolitan areas in the US! That same month, members of the Live Healthy Lynchburg gave a presentation about our community at the 2014 Southwest 2020 Summit hosted in partnership with Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, and United Way. Senator Warner and Va Lt Gov Dr. Ralph Northam were headlining speakers. We were delighted to share our challenges and our successes. The third annual 100 mile challenge had 2000 participants logging miles from 220 organizations.
In 2015 we welcomed Lindsey Cawood as our new coordinator from the Virginia Department of Health, Central Virginia Health District. We distributed 100 stickers to local businesses to designate them as Breastfeeding Friendly. We repeated our CHANGE community assessment. We initiated a relationship with the Birchwood community with support from the Prayer of Faith Temple and helped them develop an after-school child care group. The fourth annual 100 mile challenge had 1700 individuals logging miles, and 214 organizations participating.
In 2016, we were selected as the Community Organization of the Year by Horizon Behavioral Health! We were honored for this recognition and hope to continue to earn it! Strive for Five and the 100 Mile Challenge continued. We distributed 5,000 copies of a children’s book about health called PT Gets Moving to every elementary school child in Lynchburg City. The book is intended to promote more walking to and from school and has been shown to inspire healthy habits in its readers. Get your free copy at the Lynchburg Public Library! We also partnered with Endstation Theatre to produce an original work called “The Whole Bunch” by playwright Josh Mikel. This hilarious and interactive show educated the audience about a balanced diet (modeled by MyPlate) while inspiring them to “eat right, feel right!” The Whole Bunch was performed 21 times in 2 weeks across 16 schools and reached over 5,000 students. The fifth annual 100 mile challenge had 1400 individuals logging miles, and 150 organizations participating.
Let us know your thoughts. How do you feel about the city sidewalks? community gardens? Movement education and home economic classes in our schools? Tobacco-free parks? A soda tax? We hope to continue to connect the dots between your interests and local resources. We think we can, we think we can, we think we can…