Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
Parkersburg (West Virginia) News and Sentinel on state's obesity rate:
West Virginia's obesity rate is one of the highest in the nation. We, along with Arkansas and Mississippi, have a population in which more than 35 percent are obese — not just a little overweight, obese. That is bad news, but it is nothing we have not been hearing for many years, now.
Meanwhile, Ohio was one of only a few states in which the obesity rate increased last year.
Secretary Karen Bowling of the West Virginia's Department of Health and Human Resources, explained that obesity and tobacco use continue to be the leading causes of the chronic diseases that plague the Mountain State. And both are, for the most part, entirely preventable.
Why, then, do we as West Virginians have such a hard time eating a little healthier, moving a little more, and avoiding tobacco use? Is it an education problem? An attitude problem? A cultural problem? An economic problem?
Bureaucrats and politicians who believe the best solution to any problem is to throw more money at it will say we simply do not have enough funding for programs that would solve the problem.
There may be a little truth to that, but other solutions cannot be neglected. For example, Bowling said "DHHR is working with communities, health care systems, and decision-makers to develop initiatives improving access to physical activity and nutritious options."
Want access to physical activity? Open your front door. Go for a walk. Get a dog and take it for a walk. Use a push mower instead of a riding lawn mower. Put down the remote or video game controller and run around the house with the kids, instead.
Want access to physical activity AND nutritious food options? Plant a garden next spring.
Yes all of those ideas take effort, time and planning. Staying healthy takes effort, time and planning. No one else can do the work for you, no matter how much money they spend.
The Inter-Mountain, Elkins, West Virginia, on poverty programs in state:
Since the mid-1960s, government policy to help West Virginians overcome poverty has focused primarily on handing out money in the form of programs ranging from traditional "welfare" to expanding Medicaid.
So, how has that worked out for us?
In 1969, 22.2 percent of state residents had incomes below the poverty level set by the federal government. Now, the rate is 20 percent.
West Virginia has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, at 7.6 percent. We have the lowest workforce participation rate, at 52.8 percent. Median income here, $41,059, is a full $10,000 below the national average.
Of course, we can do little about federal policy. But state legislators should ponder the old advice about the insanity of doing the same thing over and over again — and expecting different results.
The Herald-Dispatch, Huntington, West Virginia, on the state's tourism industry:
Mountain State residents know West Virginia has great natural beauty, unmatched outdoor recreation opportunities and unique historical and cultural stories to tell.
All of that spells "tourism" — if the state can get the message out. Compared to many of our neighboring states, West Virginia's tourism industry is relatively small. The U.S. Travel Association estimated the economic impact in 2014 at $2.9 billion, but in Kentucky it's $8.3 billion and Virginia $22 billion.
But the state has so many resources to build on and half of the U.S. population within 500 miles of the state. With energetic marketing, there is so much room to grow.
That is why it is so encouraging to see the state's tourism office gaining regional and nation attention for its work to promote the state. Last month, Wild, Wonderful West Virginia was named 2015 State Tourism Office of the Year by the Southeast Tourism Society.
Even better, the group's annual convention was held in Charleston, attracting tourism officials from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.
Tourism commissioner Amy Shuler Goodwin noted that her office has developed new initiatives and industry collaborations to attract more visitors and will be working hard to keep the momentum to showcase "Wild, Wonderful West Virginia to the world."
In recent years, the state has added a PGA golf tournament, the Boy Scouts world class conference and recreation complex and many other attractions, as well as new vacation-home developments. There has never been a better time to turn up the heat on letting America know what we have to offer.