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What's We Can

We Can!™ City: Armstrong County, Pennsylvania

HEALTHY Armstrong

“The Healthy Recipe of the Week campaign helps residents make healthy food choices. It’s another way we promote the We Can! message within Armstrong County.”
— Kay Owen, Project Director, HEALTHY Armstrong

Armstrong County, which calls itself “the heart of Western Pennsylvania,” has had a soft spot for We Can!-based programming since it became the first official We Can! County.

Like many rural communities, Armstrong County has the challenge of spreading recreational efforts and opportunities over a large geographic area—in this case some 664 square miles. But leaders are up to that challenge, especially when it comes to helping local children maintain a healthy weight.

Armstrong County Sign

Prompted by data showing alarming rates of overweight among children in their community, the ACMH Foundation rolled up its sleeves and got down to work with We Can! The formal launch of this first We Can! County, in September 2007, was a high-energy event that included music and physical activity for the several hundred school-age children who attended, and featured a variety of speakers—including Melissa McGowan, Office of Communications and Public Liaison, the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. At the event, McGowan presented Armstrong County Commissioners with the first ever We Can! County road sign. Armstrong kept the momentum going by hosting a 2K walk for families two days following the launch. Representatives from all of the organizations partnering in the HEALTHY (Healthy Eating Active Lifestyles Together Helping Youth) Armstrong coalition, a countywide, school-based initiative, also participated in the event (see below for more details on the coalition).

Read more about the County’s implementation of We Can! programming below. You can also skip ahead to each of the following topics by clicking on them.

Key Successes

Among its many successes influencing individual and family behavior change in the heart of Western Pennsylvania, HEALTHY Armstrong has promoted We Can! in the following ways:

Healthy Recipe of the Week: From October 2008 through the fall of 2009, HEALTHY Armstrong will be cooking up a countywide campaign to help residents understand the importance of proper food choices, nutritional content, and portion control. The group partnered with several grocery stores throughout the county, offering weekly healthy recipes which are featured in a prominent grocery display. The intent is to make people aware of the We Can! program, let them know they have easy access to healthy food choices, and give them a way to prepare those foods.

    Grocery Display

Web Visibility: The HEALTHY Armstrong Web site, launched in April 2009, allows visitors from across the globe to learn about We Can! through HEALTHY Armstrong, allowing them access to We Can!-based resources with the click of a mouse. You can see for yourself at

Healthy Armstrong Web site

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As of spring 2009, We Can! programming was underway in seven elementary and middle schools in Armstrong County.

Based on the We Can! CATCH curriculum, the school program began as a pilot effort in Elderton Elementary School and was so successful there that it expanded to six other schools in Armstrong County. The program includes in-classroom, after-school, weekend, and other activities, including:

  • Snack-making advice from HEALTHY Armstrong school-based staff
  • We Can! tips incorporated into discussions during middle school health classes
  • “Wellness Night” for parents and students at the West Hills Primary School
  • Field trips to Lenape Vo-Tech for healthy cooking demonstrations
  • Field trips to the local YMCA for a water safety lesson (swimming for the whole family)
  • “Go for the Greens” Celebration activities
  • Turn-Off-the-TV Week
  • Project ACES (All Children Exercise Simultaneously)
  • Schoolwide monthly walks outdoors
  • A wellness trip to the Belmont Complex recreational facility
  • Visits from a nutritionist

Site coordinators report that several local high schools have expressed interest in the curricula, and will be working with them to see how best to get students and their parents involved.

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As mentioned earlier, HEALTHY Armstrong is a coalition comprised of many partners, including the following:

  • ACMH Hospital
  • ACMH Foundation
  • Armstrong School District
  • Children’s Community Pediatrics—Armstrong
  • County of Armstrong
  • UPMC Health Plan

Other community partners include The Armstrong Trail, Greater Armstrong County YMCA, Belmont Complex, Penn State Cooperative Extension, and Crooked Creek Environmental Learning Center. On a side note, representatives from the UPMC Health Plan also lead We Can! efforts in nearby Pittsburgh. Read more about their efforts.

HEALTHY Armstrong

The coalition’s mission is to “…improve the health of families in the community and to help children maintain a healthy weight through improved nutrition and increased physical activity.” These are two key We Can! messages, and the coalition’s work is based on We Can! curricula for youth and parents.

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Outreach & Events

From the first day as a We Can! county, Armstrong County has gotten hearts pumping about the program by reaching out to the community and others through a number of events and activities:

  • “Wellness Month,” April 2009: The Armstrong County Commissioner’s office declared April a month to focus on countywide wellness efforts, and issued a proclamation which included We Can! as one movement making those efforts.
  • Direct Communication: In an effort to reach people directly, HEALTHY Armstrong distributes a monthly wellness newsletter that features helpful nutritional tips and recipes, suggestions for physical activity, and strategies for weight management. Newsletter authors include coalition partners who provide readers with We Can!-based guidance on energy balance, portion distortion, and finding the fun in physical activity. Armstrong County residents will also get a peek at We Can! as they drive along major highways where several We Can! County road signs will be erected in the Summer of 2009.
  • Media Coverage: HEALTHY Armstrong has been getting the We Can!-based word out by reaching into Armstrong’s living rooms and onto breakfast tables by appearing in the local news. Coalition representatives have gone live on “Pittsburgh Today Live,” a morning show on the CBS affiliate station in Pittsburgh (KDKA TV) and been profiled on the Armstrong School District television station ASD-TV, and the coalition’s programs have been featured several times in the local newspaper, The Leader Times.
  • Knowledge Sharing: Leaders at the Armstrong County site have also reached out to share lessons learned with others. For example:
    • National Association for City and County Health Officials Webcast: This February 2008 Webcast for city and county health officials featured a top We Can! coordinator in Armstrong County, Dr. Kiran Bhat. Dr. Bhat is a pediatrician at Children’s Community Pediatrics—Armstrong, and plays an essential role in coordinating We Can!-based activities for Healthy Armstrong in both clinical and community settings. You can hear the Webcast at
    • We Can! Regional Training in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Patricia Shiring, former director of the ACMH Foundation, led a session on the We Can! experience during this November 2007 training. She shared the site’s history and future plans, hoping to spur a new cadre of We Can! coordinators to go out and bring the program to their own communities. Read more about We Can! trainings.

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Contact Information

For more information on Armstrong’s We Can! platform, please send a letter or visit their Web site:

Kay Detrick Owen
Project Director
HEALTHY Armstrong
401 Ford Street
Ford City, PA 16226

For additional contact information, send an email to

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