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When people feel supported, they build their confidence to make changes for themselves. When they realize they have this power to make changes, they help others do the same. For Ruth Dudding, this support network is what keeps the Athens community working toward a goal to be healthier and stronger.

For our new Ask an Expert segment, Live Healthy Appalachia sat down with Ruth to talk about the importance of forging collaborations and building relationships. As a Certified Health Education Specialist at the Athens City County Health Department (ACCHD), Ruth has been known as an expert in teaching about healthy food and cooking. Her strengths, however, lie in her innate ability to connect people and provide support. Within the 17 years at ACCHD, Ruth has seen many exciting changes and with these changes, a cultural shift in the health mindset of the Athens community. Her role as a CHIP facilitator has also given her insight into what people are concerned about and how this course has given them the tools toward a healthier lifestyle.

In a circle at the West Elementary gym are 20 fourth graders stretching and getting ready to play a game for a new pilot program for Live Healthy Kids called LHK Coaches. Volunteer LHK Coach Julia Bowen stands in the center of the circle and guides the kids in a side stretch, arching her arm to one side. The kids follow suit. During this ten-minute stretch, Julia asks them for suggestions for a different stretch to follow. She takes a few suggestions as other kids remain quiet; some chat with their friends and a few burst out in laughter as they share stories.

Julia announces their first game. “Today, we’re going to play Lupo Manga Fruta!” Before she launches with the directions, she asks the kids what they think the language is. Wild guesses fill the air: Swedish! Mexican! Portuguese! After a few clues that included words like pasta and lasagna, the kids finally guess Italian. “So, who wants to be the wolf first?” Julia asks. A boy named Oliver volunteers. Soon after, Julia brings the rest of the fourth graders in a huddle so they could think of their fruit. Oliver, meanwhile, stands in the back, awaiting his role as the Lupo to begin.

We all love to hear a good story. For kids, stories bring them into imaginary worlds and encourage them to activate their creativity and visual thinking. For the second graders in Live Healthy Kids, these stories transport them to different cultures as they travel around the world, to countries such as Japan, Lebanon, Brazil and Ethiopia.

It’s always a joy for parents to witness their kids get excited about food, especially when the food is healthy for them. Live Healthy Kids, LHA’s bedrock children’s program, does just that: infuse enthusiasm for making and enjoying dishes with fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

“The things I like about LHK is that it teaches kids an important life skill - to make their own food,” parent Marina Anisimova said in a recent interview via email. “Having this experience in a classroom adds more depth to this skill.”

When you move into a new town, what do you do to get involved in the community? For Brooke Berning, she did what some might consider to be a no-brainer: she decided to volunteer. “I love learning about Athens and the community and where I am living. I think it’s important,” the Ohio University Special Education major said in an interview. Originally from Columbus, Brooke believes in paying it forward.

It’s okay if you didn’t start your New Year’s resolutions on that following Monday. The great thing about goals is you can start them on any given day of the week!

Live Healthy Appalachia has a bold footprint in Southeast Ohio because of its ardent supporters and donors. Some of these supporters are practicing physicians who believe in the work that we do and inform their patients of how they can be on the road to a healthier lifestyle. Dr. Katy Kropf is one of our passionate advocates championing our mission to spread healthy eating and active living. As Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine, Dr. Kropf has been practicing medicine for 14 years.

More often than not, our program participants share their stories about their LHA experience and how it has made a difference in their lives. We share with you one such story, from Jeri and Freddie Kendrick, both of whom took part in CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program), LHA’s cornerstone adult education program, last fall.

Live Healthy Appalachia has been selected as a grantee in the Aetna Foundation’s Cultivating Healthy Communities program and was awarded a $50,000 community grant to expand its Cooking Coaches program.

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