Community Spotlight Martinsburg: Runners at the start of the Truffle Shuffle 5k

Making Health a Part of Main Street Culture in Martinsburg West Virginia.

Local news covering a healthy cooking demonstration at the Martinsburg Farmers Market

When the West Virginia Development Office designated Martinsburg as one of its Main Street West Virginia communities, it got the city off to a running start in improving its economic prospects through a four-pronged approach. These four points include economic vitality, physical design, promotion of a city’s positive image, and organization of partners and resources. So it felt natural for the city in Berkeley county to add the health of its residents as a fifth point of building a strong community. Today, events sponsored by Main Street Martinsburg reliably attract large crowds after residents learn of them through Facebook and radio ads.

“Our downtown events have really grown over the last several years,” says Dana DeJarnett, Health Promotion Coordinator at The Wellness Center at Berkeley Medical Center and an active committee member of Healthy Berkeley WV. “We try to add a healthy element to a lot of those,” she continues, noting that even when the event isn’t directly health-related – such as the barbeque or the chili cookoff – the city uses it as a healthy lifestyle educational opportunity.

“Our downtown events have really grown over the last several years”
– Dana DeJarnett, Health Promotion Coordinator at The Wellness Center at Berkeley Medical Center

To better accommodate active lifestyles, the City of Martinsburg is implementing a new zoning ordinance that modernizes its development strategy. A large focus of the ordinance is ensuring safe accommodations for walking and bicycling, allowing people to reduce their dependence on motorized vehicles.

The city has also strengthened its affiliations with local health leaders to promote healthy behaviors. “Walk with a Doc” events meet at the Martinsburg Farmers Market so participants can fuel with fresh fruits and vegetables before or after walking. The farmers market also offers double and triple benefits to SNAP cardholders, so healthy food is easier to come by for many residents. A community garden is now growing – in size as well as its plants.

Healthy nutrition is a focus for a wide swath of the community, from the very youngest to the older alike. Berkeley Medical Center in Martinsburg recently became a certified Baby-Friendly Hospital that uses evidence-based practices to encourage breastfeeding instead of formula use. The hospital’s Diabetes Center started a Farm to You program, serving up fresh produce to not only the center’s patients but to interested members of the community.

Healthy Berkeley volunteers serving healthy chili at the annual Martinsburg Chili cook off competition

“You’ve got to integrate into the community somehow,” says DeJarnett, referring how Martinsburg looked beyond the obvious health partners such as hospitals and fitness centers to groups like Rotary clubs, charities, schools and local businesses. Together, they formed Healthy Berkeley, a community initiative that promotes “physical activity, healthy eating, and learning to make healthy choices.” The group works with community champions so its efforts include input from residents and are well-received.

"I do think that [WVHPHP] application is good in the way it helps you self-evaluate ...”
– Dana DeJarnett, Health Promotion Coordinator at The Wellness Center at Berkeley Medical Center

Healthy Berkeley is currently working to directly respond to what Martinsburg residents are looking for. With the challenges presented by COVID, mapping nature trails and focusing on virtual events have become priorities. The group maintains an active Facebook page that offers free classes and is planning a chronic pain self-management class to be hosted on Zoom.

According to DeJarnett, the proudest moment for the group was Martinsburg’s recognition as a Gold Healthy People, Healthy Places community. She says that the HPHP benchmarks are “an excellent way to look at your community and see what you have and don’t have” so locales can plan for the future equipped with “a good roadmap.”

“I do think that [HPHP] application is good in the way it helps you self-evaluate at the same time,” DeJarnett concludes.

Communities across West Virginia can begin applying for 2020 recognition now through November 20, 2020.

To register and start the 2020 application process, click here.

Photos courtesy of Healthy Berkeley and James Hersick

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