Preventing Early Childhood Obesity in North Carolina
Childhood obesity continues to be one of the largest public health crises in the nation. One-third of children and teens nationwide are overweight or obese,1 and more than half of obese children become obese at or before the age of two.2
Recent research indicating that lifelong health is largely determined during the formative years of early childhood3 points to the importance of establishing healthy lifestyle behaviors before children enter kindergarten. In North Carolina, 29 percent of low-income children ages two to four years attending a state-funded health clinic are overweight or obese.4
Thirty-four percent of North Carolina children under the age of six years spend all or part of their days in licensed child care centers5 where they consume up to two meals and two snacks a day.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) Foundation recognizes that these child care centers can influence healthy behaviors in young children and has been collaborating with early childhood experts for the past decade through investments in three programs:
- Be Active Kids®, a BCBSNC Foundation signature program
- Preventing Obesity by Design (POD), a program out of the Natural Learning Initiative from NC State University’s College of Design
- Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care (NAP SACC), a program of the University of North Carolina’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
In order to truly impact early childhood obesity in North Carolina, the BCBSNC Foundation recognized a comprehensive approach was needed and built upon the successful aspects of each of these programs. In 2011, BCBSNC Foundation created Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children, a three-year, $3 million collaboration with The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC). Based on the success of the first phase of the program, BCBSNC Foundation approved an additional $3 million for a three-year Shape NC extension (phase II).
A History of Collaboration
BCBSNC Foundation and NCPC have a strong history of working together on projects impacting healthy eating habits and active play for young children. The second $3 million grant allows the initiative to expand its work through NCPC and Smart Start, a network of 76 nonprofit local partnerships serving all 100 North Carolina counties. NCPC provides statewide governance to the Smart Start partnerships in addition to resources for local innovation. Smart Start’s dedication to quality early care and education, its broad reach across North Carolina, and its accessible, centralized leadership made it an ideal partner in this endeavor.