As US life expectancy falls, West Virginia offers lessons

MADISON, W.Va. (AP) — If you want to understand why U.S. life expectancy is declining, West Virginia is a good place to start.

The state is a bellwether of bad health, portending major problems years before they became severe nationally.

Some are looking to West Virginia for signs of a healthier future. Small projects have been popping up across the state to reduce obesity, cut drug overdose deaths and make other changes. A few communities seem to be having some success.

But health problems continue to abound and the failure of a soda tax proposal and other initiatives have left many skeptical that life expectancy there will improve.

One resident who organized a 2,500-person community walking program says they’ve got to get better.