The state of West Virginia is No. 1 in cardiac heart disease, No. 2 in obesity and is No. 47 in overall health statistics out of the 50 United States.
The combination of these factors has unfortunately resulted in an even more terrifying realization – women residing in West Virginia have a lower life expectancy rate than women in every other state across the nation.
Thankfully, the West Virginia University National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health has made it their mission to help. The CoEWH is one of 20 such centers in the nation and is dedicated to improving the health and wellbeing of women physically, spiritually and mentally.
The major outreach program delivered by the center is a Women on Wellness Retreat. WOW serves as an interactive, one-day behavioral change retreat that is designed to help women make lasting, positive lifestyle changes.
Each woman leaves the retreat with her own personal lifestyle plan, showing participants it is possible to live normal lives while also being healthy.
While on a WOW Retreat, the CoEWH provides women with free health screenings, beginner exercise sessions that are conducted in an encouraging environment, advice from experts on women’s health, and a chance to participate in unique holistic alternatives including massages and Reiki.
“We believe that a healthy lifestyle is a journey, not a destination,” said Katie O’Connor, a volunteer with the CoEWH. “By providing women with a safe, nonjudgmental environment, women are able to develop the goals and strategies that are best for her and then use the personalized lifestyle plan she has created to effect change. It is (a) holistic, behavior change program, for body, mind and spirit.”
This year the center will host three WOW retreats in Greenbrier, Mingo and Marion Counties, with the possibility of a fourth in Berkeley County.
“College students would benefit from this program by learning easy ways to change their lifestyles to better themselves,” O’Connor said. “College is stressful for some. The Women on Wellness retreats invite women of all ages to learn different techniques to relieve stress through exercise, meditation and other methods.”
In addition to the WOW retreats, the National Center of Excellence offers Community Advisory Network meetings that are open to everyone in the state with an interest in women’s health. The
CoEWH’s Women Love Your Heart events have also partnered with the WVU Heart Institute and the American Heart Association to host a variety of health-related events.
“One of 20 nationally designated centers across the United States, West Virginia’s CoE is the only CoE in the nation with a statewide capture area,” O’Connor said. “WVU is (a) land grant institution and takes its reasonability to the state very seriously. The National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health focuses on community outreach building and working with community partnerships across the state. The Center of Excellence is (a) also multidisciplinary grass-roots effort focusing on all aspects of health for women throughout their life.”
The first step to leading a healthier lifestyle is to be informed. Learn more about women’s health and upcoming events by visiting http://www.wvhealthywomen.org/.