LEWISBURG, WV (WOAY) – Gov. Jim Justice announced that the West Virginia School of Osteopathic Medicine (WVSOM) Healthy Children’s Initiative, a program that raises awareness about childhood obesity and works to promote healthy life choices, will receive $50,000 in funding.
“When you’re able to give away money that’s great stuff,” Justice said during a press conference Wednesday morning that was hosted on WVSOM’s campus in Lewisburg. “West Virginia used to be 50th in everything. The likelihood of crawling out of 50th with Jim Justice as your governor was not very high. But the reality is we have and we are on our way. I don’t think we want to go backwards. West Virginia today is a different place than it was 22 months ago.”
WVSOM’s Healthy Children’s Initiative is working toward creating a healthier West Virginia for the state’s youth. The initiative was created in 2011 along with the Abracadabra television series. It has served as a springboard for greater visibility around the issue of childhood obesity and engagement with other health issues of importance to West Virginians. Combining magic, ventriloquism and original music with important lessons about health, nutrition, exercise, safety and science, the show has captured the hearts of young viewers.
Justice commented on the importance of programs that educate children.
“Any and every effort that we make to help children and to educate kids in a better way should always be taken note and we should always hold that close to our heart, because that’s good stuff and that’s just all there is to it,” he said after the press conference.
Delegate George “Boogie” Ambler played a role in helping to secure funding for the initiative. He said he was pleased to receive the announcement of the governor’s funding.
“Abracadabra and other parts of the Healthy Children’s Initiative are fantastic,” he said. “Those programs are what we need to keep moving West Virginia forward.”
This year, Abracadabra received a regional EMMY Award for a STEM episode. The show is aired on West Virginia Public Media and PBS stations in three other states. In total, the stations reach portions of 10 states and parts of Canada, with the opportunity to showcase West Virginia to a viewing audience of more than 5 million people.
Episodes have centered on topics such as bullying, cyber predators, STEM, bicycle safety, visiting the doctor, growing a garden, fire safety and social development including sharing, courtesy and curiosity.
“A special episode of Abracadabra currently in post-production focuses on opioids and the drug epidemic,” said Michael Adelman, D.O., J.D., WVSOM’s president emeritus and the TV show’s creator. “This particular episode is directed toward elementary-aged children and their parents. We are excited about this special, as it is one of a few drug prevention and educational initiatives that focuses on this age group.”
James W. Nemitz, Ph.D., WVSOM’s president, said the osteopathic medical school is appreciative of the support from Gov. Justice and funding for what WVSOM leaders think is such an important program for the state.
“The impact we are having on youth in West Virginia is already profound and we know from school visits that the initiative is effective. It’s amazing to see these children respond so well to our message,” he said.
In addition to the television series, the initiative includes an outreach coordinator who works with school counselors and teachers at various elementary schools throughout West Virginia to present health, nutrition and STEM educational concepts that are reinforced by the Abracadabra series.