Cassadaga Valley Community Conversation Focuses On Health, Wellness

SINCLAIRVILLE - When people share ideas and gather together in one interest, good things can happen.

More than 100 people gathered at Cassadaga Valley Central High School to discuss how to make their community a healthier place Thursday evening for the first Community Conversation in the area. The event was put on by the school district and Creating Healthy Schools and Communities in Chautauqua County, a five-year public health initiative to help reduce major risk factors in a variety school districts and communities in the area.

Area residents, business owners, leaders and organization members shared a healthy meal prior to the discussion, and then viewed a short presentation from Kate Ebersole, conversation facilitator for the evening.

Ebersole welcomed the attendees to the event with gusto.

"Welcome - this is a great turn out. Tonight is all about how we can make this community a better place to live, work and play," she said. "We want to hear your opinion and what you think of all of this."

She invited the crowd to take advantage of the numerous activities throughout the building, such as multiple bounce-houses, sports, arts and crafts and more.

"There are a lot of activities and I will let anybody choose where they'd like to go. However, we are encouraging the adults to stay here and not go bounce in the bounce houses," Ebersole said with a grin as she dismissed the students.

Afterward, everyone left gathered into groups of five or six to begin the discussion.

"Thank you for being here. This is a community conversation, and it is a part of looking at how we can create healthy schools and healthy communities in Chautauqua County," Ebersole said, adding she wanted to share some statistics with the crowd. "We're going to talk about the social determinates of health."

She showed a slide of health factors which impact one's life and overall health, which included health behaviors, clinical care, social and economic factors and physical environment.

"Only 20 percent of the quality of your life is based on the care you get at your doctor's office," Ebersole said. "Thirty percent is based on your health behaviors, 40 percent is based on your social and economic factors and 10 percent is based on your physical environment. However, in this county, we focus on that 20 percent you're healthy if you go to the doctor."

She said there was a lot more to it when it comes to being healthy.

Ebersole then shared some alarming statistics with the crowd.

She said 33 percent of students in new York state are overweight or obese, while in Chautauqua County, 36 percent are overweight or obese. In Cassadaga Valley alone, 40 percent of students are overweight or obese.

"Not a good statistic," Ebersole said. "It just points to the fact of where our health rankings are."

Our of 62 counties in New York state, she said Chautauqua County has been ranked at No. 59 as one of the unhealthiest counties in the state.

"Healthy eating and participating in physical activities will keep us healthier longer," Ebersole said, adding the community conversations will help incite change to the better. "How can we make your communities healthier?"

She said Chautauqua County also has some of the highest rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes in the state.

"If we're going to do this, we want to hear your opinion," Ebersole said.
The participants broke into groups to discuss the issues at hand.

Overall, Ebersole said the Creating Healthy Schools and Communities grant is a great public health initiative, and will focus on six school districts and the surrounding areas. The districts include: Cassadaga Valley Central School District, Dunkirk City School District, Jamestown Public Schools District, Pine Valley Central School District, Ripley Central School District and Silver Creek Central School District.

She said other meetings will be held in the future in these districts to facilitate conversations within those communities, such as the upcoming meeting on May 17 with Pine Valley Central School District.

Ann Morse Abdella, Chautauqua County Health Network executive director, said she couldn't have been happier with the event.

"We're just tickled with the turn out," Abdella said. "The school district has really been a tremendous partner during this."

She said the initiative is looking forward to pulling the events together to come up with excellent outcomes.

For more information, visit or find them on facebook under "Creating Healthy Schools and Communities".