Healthy in the Hills: Our Story

This story was originally published through 100 Million Healthier Lives and is brought to you through partnership with 100 Million Healthier Lives and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

A rainbow shines down on the Williamson Block Party, and families talk about a safe place for the kids to run and play, "we need something like this happening all year." The secret to success may be believing in our ability to use our limitations to our advantage.

Crafting Sticky Ideas & Building on What Works

Appalachian ingenuity dates back more than 150 years to coal miners working to problem solve and create solutions to fuel a global economy. In a community with limited resources, we pride ourselves on seeing challenges as opportunities.

There's a sense of community and fellowship in southern West Virginia (and in our eastern Kentucky communities, too!). Families gather at food and fitness events. Churches bring people together around the table. We connect at talent shows, health fairs or at the Arts Brigade pop-up art shows.

Getting together around the table to plan and eat together fits with the Appalachian culture. That's why Community Conversations is a vehicle for change. Meeting people where they are, we can put realistic, step-by-step plans on paper. Using feedback from one another to stay focused and accountable to our goals, Healthy in the Hills partners thrive. While we do not always get it right the first try, we're committed to failing forward together.

The Healthy in the Hills Network understands the community interest in addressing access issues and seeing change now. We stay motivated at Community Conversations by achieving short-term visible wins and gain deep leadership skills along the way.

Since 2014, when Williamson, WV (Pop. 3,000) was recognized as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Culture of Health Prize Winner, Healthy in the Hills has been motivated to learn and tell stories that are contagious. Making it sticky! That's part of our special sauce as we strive for 10,000 Healthier Lives by 2020. A network of partners and community champions are addressing social determinants of health: Poverty, Drug Overdose, Education Attainment, Housing, Employment, Chronic Disease, Broadband Access, Transportation.

Southern West Virginians Excited to Make Visible Changes

Without a network of support and a safe community, families cannot thrive. Nearly 29% of Mingo County residents are living in households with income below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). More than 10,000 people in Mingo County (42.4% of the population) are receiving SNAP benefits and 60.07% of public school students are eligible for free/reduced price lunch.

"The sun doesn't always shine in West Virginia, but the people always do." - John F. Kennedy

Who's driving change in your community?

Amy Dearfield Hannah

Amy Dearfield Hannah is a Community Network Director. She helps bring partners together to make data driven plans and collects impact stories. She also divvies watermelon to drive summer fun!

Amy shared what she's learned from being a part of 100 Million Healthier Lives: "Having worked in a career to address social determinants of health for more than 20 years, the biggest change for me as a network director is engaging people with lived experience. Together, we are working harder for health equity."

Community Champion: Josh Murphy has a history building trust with people and partners, "Team Work Makes the Dream Work."

Josh Murphy says, "More hands means less work. Strong community partnerships make for stronger communities. Just like with an orchestra or a chorus, when we work together toward the same goal, the results are much more beautiful.

Josh is a Prevention Coordinator for the STOP Coalition. He talks about how juuling in schools is worsening problem, and looks to sharing substance use disorder interventions with faith-based partnerships and youth.

Josh Murphy tackles issues around substance use disorder

Angie Wingrove is standing 3rd from the left with others from Crossroads Recovery Center

Community Champion: Angie Wingrove says "I've Been in Their Shoes."

Angie is interested in helping those in recovery transition.

Angie Wingrove says, "It means a lot to me to be a community champion. I provide our residents with inspiration and hope. I show them that recovery is possible. I also speak on their behalf on some issues. I make sure that their voice gets heard.

They see me and they know what to do with their own recovery. I set a good example. I inspire them to recover. They relate to me the most because I have been in their shoes. They come to me with their feelings because they know I understand. They trust me."

Community Champion: Nate Siggers talks about getting into work with people in recovery and following what feels like a calling.

Nate Siggers spent months volunteering with the Williamson Health and Wellness Center. His volunteer work helped him to discover a passion for helping his community, and seeing the effects of his work is a reward. “For me, there is no better feeling than helping someone for the right reasons and getting a genuine thank you, or seeing the positive effect it has on their lives,” says Nathaniel.

Check out the full article here:

Nate Siggers guides service learning work in Williamson

Community Champions: Maria Arnot & Kristin DeBoard

Looking for Tools to Drive Change? Check out Driver Diagrams

We know that there are limitless ways to achieve success, and that is why we approach making change with confidence and ingenuity. With many ideas on the table, from diverse voices, our team has begun to use processes that help us to script the changes and to shape the path.

That's why we like driver diagrams and meaningful measurement strategies. All of this takes time, and it may be worth it to plan, especially if you know you will see change happen in the lives of those around you. What ignites new ideas into action? A solid plan with diverse and thoughtful input is a start.

To the left, you'll see four teams who are using driver diagrams to address substance use disorder and food insecurity. Above is a project based driver diagram around food, fitness and capacity building work. Below is a look at where we are on our journey to 10,000 Healthier Lives by 2020.

What's the Difference Between Equality and Equity?

Equality is giving everyone the same shoe. Equity is giving everyone a shoe that fits. Check out the image here. What does equity look like working with people in your community?

National Academy of Medicine published a collection of equity stories and strategies, including a highlight from our community in WV about bringing “lived experience” into planning.

Check out the Communities in Action, Pathways to Health Equity below. How are you bringing diverse perspective into decision making in your work?

The Center for Courage and Renewal offers good tips for engaging people in an authentic way. Healthy in the Hills partners practice active listening and other techniques, or "habits of the heart."

Welcome to Appalachia: We've Got a Tale to Tell

Healthy in the Hills invites rural communities and resource providers to participate in active learning with us. We offer tours to share the motivation behind our work (and our secret recipes with ingredients like interdependence and ingenuity). Come for a visit to hear about it all, including fail forward moments and bright spots.

In addition to tours, register for community trainings.  If you are interested in learning about rural health improvement strategies and tools, give us a shout. We are all capable of accomplishing what we set out to do when we work together.


We also invite you to join the Hatfield McCoy Marathon as a runner or a volunteer in 2019. The Hatfield McCoy races series is recognized by American Towns Media as one of the "Best marathons in the US," and is also feature in the "Bucket List: 10 Fun Marathons" from Runner's World Magazine, 2016.

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Social Determinants of Health