By: Michael Campbell | Twitter: @itsthesoup
Posted: Mar. 14, 2018 | 12:00 p.m.
DINWIDDIE – “Learn. Grow. Empower. Connect. Support. Gain.”
For some, those are simply words that carry little weight in the grand scheme of things but for Dinwiddie County, those words represent a path to a better life and the pillars of what will make a healthier Dinwiddie County in the future as officials across a broad swath of departments, agencies, and organizations work to bring the county’s first ever Live Well Expo to fruition.
Slated for Saturday, March 17 at Dinwiddie High School from 9 a.m. to noon, this free event is designed to showcase the many ways to “eat well, move well, and live well” in Dinwiddie County while connecting the community with resources they may not know exist or how to interface with those resources when needed.
For County Administrator Kevin Massengill and Deputy County Administrator Tammie Collins, Saturday’s expo isn’t just about hosting another health fair in the county, it’s about the county taking the lead in charting its own health future, from a physical, mental, and emotional perspective.
“The flavor of the Live Well Expo is about addressing multiple dynamics and looking at all sorts of ways our residents can have a healthy life,” Collins said. “It’s about looking at and determining what the barriers and concerns of our citizens and how do we get them the resources they need.”
Saturday’s expo covers the gamut of topics and subjects, with over 40 different agencies and organizations on hand providing free health screenings and immunizations, required T-Dap shots for the county’s rising sixth graders will be administered without charge, a variety of healthy food stations where attendees can try different dishes on hand, and a host of other vendors and demonstrations.
The county will be hosting it’s first Live Well Expo on Saturday at Dinwiddie High School, featuring a myriad of activities, health screenings, and connections to resources in the community.
Helping with the screenings is Petersburg’s Southside Regional Medical Center, which can be the only emergency medical center for many in Dinwiddie County. In his conversations with the hospital over the years, Massengill said the medical center has noticed a trend in patients coming to the hospital and hopes this weekend’s Live Well Expo can help curb that trend in the right direction going forward.
“What Southside Regional Medical Center is seeing from Dinwiddie County is that people aren’t proactively addressing health concerns,” the county administrator remarked, noting the sparse number of doctor’s offices within the county, resulting in some having to drive well outside Dinwiddie’s borders to seek medical treatment.
“So what happens,” Massengill continued, “when someone is having an emergency, they have not fully educated themselves about the triggers of the condition they are dealing with and they are now in an undesirable place because of a lack of doing the proactive things.”
“Things like the Live Well Expo can help in such a big way because for some of our citizens who may not have a primary care physician, this will allow them to get checked out without having a cost associated with it,” he said. “We can offer good services for residents through our Fire and EMS [department], our K-12 education, and parks and recreation but, if we don’t face that fact that a healthy community is a better community, it makes things even more difficult.”
As access to adequate medical care are paired with pockets of poverty in portions of the county, and data suggesting that the life expectancy of those living in the county’s more developed portions of Dinwiddie in the northeast have a seven-years shorter lifespan than those living in other parts of the county, due to factors like drug use and violent crime, the county took proactive efforts to identify these challenges and begin working on solutions, which resulted in the birth of the Dinwiddie County Resource Council.
The council’s mission statement is, “Working together to build a community of empowered citizens” the diverse council made up of local, state, and federal agencies, local nonprofit organizations, business partners and members of the county’s faith-based community seeks to find ways to connect Dinwiddie County citizens with relevant resources.
According to Massengill, one of the first things the council noticed was that many of the county’s residents didn’t realize that there were resources readily available to them, leading to the creation of the Live Well Expo.
“In my 15 years here with the county, I feel we are all good at doing different things but that interconnected nature is something that hasn’t been focused on,” he shared, adding while the county supports a number of agencies and organizations whose mission is to serve the Dinwiddie community-at-large in some way, shape, or form, it can be a challenge for even local government to know exactly who is providing what services and how to connect county residents to them without proper asset mapping and identification of those resources.
Saturday’s event will serve as a springboard to a methodical effort by the county to help better educate residents young and old by connecting them with the right people and information to help make their lives better, including something as simple as having school buses on hand for the county’s youngest residents to tour and get a first-hand look at the bus, which can be intimidating for a young student on the first day of school. That simple moment will be paired with members of the Dinwiddie Board of Supervisors being on the bus reading to children, all in an effort to reinforce the importance of literacy and continue to work toward having students reading on reading-level at school by third grade, with literacy commonly tied to the likelihood a child will go on to commit crime later in life.
For both Collins and Massengill, their work on the resource council and the effort put out to help organize this year’s Live Well Expo is a labor of love but also an extension of working in public service as they work to improve the lives of those living in their community.
“I have been fortunate to work somewhere where my passion can come out every day,” Collins shared. “I am not the type of person to put energy into something unless it is going to be fruitful so as we built this event, there was a person in mind that this could help and provide an answer for. This is all about speaking to the greater need of the community and I am glad to be part of the solution.”
“This is a humbling experience for us,” Massengill remarked, “because you can’t be a public servant and not care about these things and understand the community in which you live. This is all part of a bigger picture to make Dinwiddie a healthier place.”
The Live Well Expo will run from 9 a.m. to noon at Dinwiddie High School on Saturday, March 17. Those with questions can contact Dinwiddie County Social Services Director Rose Mastracco at their offices, call 804-469-4524, ext. 103, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.