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Value chains provide community wealth in WV

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What is a value chain?

That question was answered at the Appalachian Regional Commission fall conference Nov. 7 in Charleston, where entrepreneurship was the overall theme.

Brenda Grant, chief strategy officer, Charleston Area Medical Center, or CAMC, explained the Medical Center's undertaking of the entrepreneurial endeavor and its importance as related to the hospital.

No 1 definition

The definition of a value chain can technically be defined a couple of ways, said Becky Ceperley, president and CEO of Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation. 

One definition is "a business model that is based on shared economic, social and environmental values in which buyers, processors, producers and others work together for mutual benefit to create value in response to market demands."

Ceperley said others have defined it as a network of people, businesses, institutions and non-profits that collaborate to meet market demand for specific products or services, each advancing individual self-interest while together creating community wealth.

In addition to the value chain model creating entrepreneurial opportunities, CAMC's status as a large institution already creates economic wealth by providing numerous jobs, lots of construction and the buying of numerous supplies and equipment, she said.

What are the value chains?

After narrowing down several choices, the winning three value chain categories are fresh herbs, telehealth and telemedicine and the Healthy KIDS program. 

When it comes to food, Grant said taste matters. 

Mike Marinaro, general manager for food and nutrition services at CAMC, said many of their patients are cardiac patients who don't particularly like their low sodium, low fat diets. By marinating food, using fresh herbs and keeping the same flavor profile, the diet served now fits across the board from regular to the cardiac diet, Marinaro said.

The key ingredient in the process is locally grown produce and herbs, fitting the value chain model of keeping wealth within the community. Marinaro said sometimes procuring the locally grown produce and herbs can be a difficult task, since farmers have to meet U.S. Department of Agriculture Good Agricultural Practices, or GAP-certified and carry liability insurance to sell their produce to CAMC.

With GAP certification comes the ability to sell across state lines, creating more job opportunities and more markets for the farmers themselves, Grant said. With more job opportunities comes the ability to advance the individual capital for that community.

Importance of technology

Because of the rural nature of West Virginia transportation, Robin Rector, corporate director of professional education at CAMC's health education and research institute, said the second area of focus is telehealth and telemedicine.

Telehealth puts the necessary equipment in that rural site, she said. By having adequate equipment, medical intervention can be administered in a timely manner and allows the services to stay in those rural communities, again promoting community wealth. 

Through USDA grants, the concept of telehealth and telemedicine has been propelled forward.

"CAMC has served as fiscal agents for the USDA grants and have trained and assisted the technology people out in the rural sites," Rector said.

The rural sites where technology is placed are responsible for maintenance of the technology.

When it comes to the Healthy KIDS program, it's all about investing in permanent life-style changes, said Jamie Jeffrey, medical director of the Children's Medicine Center at CAMC.

Not only will gardening improve local wealth, Jeffrey said, but it also will help kids learn where their better-tasting food comes from and invest in permanent and healthier lifestyle changes.

Jeffrey said other additions to a permanently healthier lifestyle include five fruits and vegetables per day, two hours or less of screen time, at least one hour of physical activity and no sugar-sweetened beverages.

Community importance

"The whole point of building a value chain is you're not just looking at money in the bank from a financial aspect," Jeffrey said. "You're looking at the bigger picture. Because you've involved everyone, you're automatically more likely to sustain it."

Ceperly said value chains are especially important to Appalachian communities.

"In Appalachia, much of the time, people come in, take what we have, take our resources, use wealth while they're here and then they leave," Ceperley said. "When they leave, they leave us nothing. The wealth goes with them." 

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