The Center for Active WV began with a handful of CPASS faculty who felt called to respond to several growing health crises in West Virginia — crises that involve increasing rates of adult and childhood obesity and all of the accompanying health issues, from diabetes to heart disease.
Eloise Elliott, Ware Distinguished Professor of physical education teacher education, says they saw many other centers around the University having a real impact on communities in the state and beyond and knew this might be one way to move the needle. Lacking the initial funds to create a University center, the faculty launched the College-based version in the hopes of gaining enough financial traction down the road to move into full University center status in the future. Their hope in a nutshell? “To encourage people across the University as well as decision-makers across the state to focus on physical activity,” Elliott says. “It emerged out of a passion for getting more people to become active and improve their lives.”
Starting in 2010, CPASS faculty and staff— including Sam Zizzi, the Dr. Pat Fehl Endowed Professor of sport and exercise psychology and the associate dean for research, and Sean Bulger, associate dean for graduate and online education and professor of physical education teacher education — began planning the ambitious project. Today, a decade after its inception, the Center is making inroads in West Virginia communities, helping to increase both awareness of and access to physical activity, improve physical activity outcomes and change lives for the better.
Working with local communities, the Center has 12 funded projects, with six already complete. Their vision is not only to increase physical activity among children and adults but also to meet or exceed the national physical activity recommendations (2018 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans). To do this, their mission is to create an effective statewide framework for physical activity that will encourage communities and organizations to add their input, collaborate and facilitate positive change, open new avenues of research and help guide state and local policy.
Their current focus is on the health of schools, communities and even families. Three grant-funded projects have become standout examples of the Center’s influence: the Be Active Grant Program, the WV CARDIAC Project and the Be Wild, Be Wonderful, Be Healthy project.