The area that stretches along the border of North Carolina from Patrick to Halifax counties known as the Dan River area has an almost 50 percent higher rate of diabetes than the rest of the country, a five percent higher rate of obesity, and 17 percent of the area’s residents live below the federal poverty line. One in four do not have health insurance. Health crises that seem to be spinning out of control for many communities across the country are writ large in this region.

Fortunately, researchers at Virginia Tech are working on a solution to improve the health of residents of the Dan River area by developing a multi-pronged program called iChoose that aims to incorporate not just nutrition education, but exercise initiatives and community gardens — a multifaceted approach that could be used as a model to battle the obesity epidemic in similar communities across America.

The holistic approach to battling obesity is spearheaded by Jamie Zoellner, associate professor of human nutrition, foods and exercise, and Paul Estabrooks, professor of human nutrition foods, and exercise, and director of the Translational Obesity Research Program. The two collaborate with community members of Danville, Virginia to address issues that contribute to a sedentary lifestyle by holding Saturday classes that teach eating and exercise habits to encourage healthy food choices and activities.

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