Our History

In 2009, a group of interested community stakeholders in the Dan River Region and researchers from the Department of Human, Nutrition, Foods and Exercise at Virginia Tech came together to create a collaborative partnership focused on obesity in the region. Community-based participatory research (CBPR) is the underlying approach driving ongoing efforts to build community capacity as well as develop and implement effective and sustainable obesity-related efforts. CBPR is a process that builds equitable community-academic partnerships, and involves the community in all phases of research including: 1) problem assessments, 2) identification and selection of potential interventions, 3) planning, 4) intervention proposal development, and 5) monitoring and evaluation. Unlike traditional research where projects/programs are placed in a community, CBPR aims to increase motivation, co-learning, and ultimately the success of projects. Furthermore, active participation by the community allows local expertise and priorities to drive the research process and demonstrates that the community has the capacity to solve their own problems.

First WorkshopAs a launching point, under leadership from Virginia Tech and in collaboration with the steering committee for this emerging task force, a 2-day workshop was hosted in April of 2010. The purpose of this workshop was to engage regional stakeholders into identifying and prioritizing potential interventions, as well as create a sense of ownership for the identified obesity-related problems and solutions. Through this process, six regional specific obesity-related causal models were created. From the prioritized causal models, three primary intervention ideas emerged including 1) health-related social marketing campaigns, 2) community gardens to increase the accessibility of fresh/local foods, and 3) social support for physical activity. (Please see link to diagrams of the causal models)
Since this workshop, the coalition has been meeting monthly to keep efforts moving forward. Several grant proposals have been submitted and awarded and three regional pilot projects are underway. In addition to the pilot projects, the DRPHC has collaboratively adopted and formalized its operating structure, including  officer elections. The DRPHC has also adopted a mission statement, vision statement, and logo.

Currently, The Dan River Partnership for a Healthy Community (DRPHC) consist of approximately 25 organizations (civic, public/private health, city/county school, faith-based, health/wellness business, grass roots, local government, higher education institutions, and foundational) and 50 members (organizational representatives and community activist) from each area of the region (Caswell, Pittsylvania, Henry/Martinsville, Halifax, Danville).


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  • Zoellner J, Motley M, Wilkinson M, Jackman B, Barlow ML, Hill JL.  Engaging the Dan River Region to Reduce Obesity: Application of the Comprehensive Participatory Planning and Evaluation Process.  Family and Community Health, 35(1)44-56, 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22143487