Obesity Prevention Proposals Outlined
The number of overweight children in the United States has doubled in the last two to three decades. According to the National Institutes of Health, one child in five is overweight and the numbers are increasing.
Locally, the figures are even more alarming. Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 57 percent of all North Carolinians are either overweight or obese -- up 82 percent from 1990-2002.
In addition, according to the North Carolina Nutrition and Physical Activity Surveillance System (NC-NPASS), 29 percent of young people ages 12 to 18 and 25 percent of children ages 5 to 11 are overweight or obese.
Although there are many causes of obesity, including genetics, the primary factors are overeating and lack of activity. This epidemic of poor nutrition coupled with lack of exercise not only increases weight, but also contributes to related health problems such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some forms of cancer.
As a result, today's children are likely to be the first generation ever to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents.
FirstHealth of the Carolinas has teamed up with community leaders, school personnel and medical professionals to make a difference for children in the mid-Carolinas.
Through special projects and programs, these groups are working together to increase awareness about the childhood obesity problem and taking steps to ensure that young people in local communities stay fit and healthy.
In October 2008, FirstHealth organized and hosted a Childhood Obesity Summit that attracted nearly 100 participants. During the event, which was funded through a special grant from the Moore Regional Hospital Auxiliary, participants learned about the far-reaching effects of childhood obesity and had the opportunity to share their own ideas about how to address the problem at the local level.
According to keynote speaker Dr. Meg Molloy, executive director of N.C. Prevention Partners, "FirstHealth's summit to reverse childhood obesity helped connect local resources and partners so they can share common problems and solutions."
In addition to promoting awareness of the issue, FirstHealth set aside a portion of the auxiliary grant to fund community-based projects generated through the event.
"These project proposals demonstrate community collaboration and encourage participants to continue working together to address obesity," says Barbara Bennett, administrative director of FirstHealth Community Health Services. "The summit overall served as a call to action within our region and will result in providing the seed money and the collaboration among community partners to implement these special projects."
FirstHealth received five proposals for related community-based projects. The proposed projects are as follows:
A Moore County proposal to pilot a farm-to-school fresh produce program to provide produce purchased directly from local farmers for three targeted schools and a day care center.
Through the program, children will have access to fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables. Project planners hope that the project will highlight the value of providing locally grown foods in school cafeterias and encourage additional farm-to-school efforts.
A second project in Moore County is to create a downtown Southern Pines walking trail that will encompass businesses, the downtown park and the community's Campbell House and grounds. The trail will be available for area residents, visitors and town employees, and will also be used in day camp and after-school programs sponsored by the Southern Pines Parks and Recreation Department.
A Hoke County program for a school garden is planned, planted, tended and harvested by third-graders. The sponsoring group will also create a walking trail at each local school and support a competition among the students to encourage use.
An award will be provided for the elementary school with the most miles walked collectively. Grant funds will cover the cost of the garden, the marking of walking trails and the purchase of pedometers for the children.
A Montgomery County Health Department and Montgomery Partnership for Children collaboration to offer Montgomery County's seven day care centers the opportunity to start a Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAP-SACC).
This obesity prevention program is designed to help child care facilities improve their approach to nutrition and physical activity by changing policies and practices.
The centers will conduct a pre-assessment, hold an action-planning session, send personnel to five educational sessions, implement action plans and conduct a post-assessment to determine the impact of change as well as additional areas for improvement. The grant money will be used to offer centers incentive funds to implement action plan items.
A "Family Fun Day" will be offered by the Montgomery County Partnership for Children on Saturday, April 18, at the James Garner Conference Center in Troy.
Originally conceived by members of the Montgomery County Local Interagency Council in collaboration with the local Smart Start Partnership, the event will provide health and developmental screenings for preschool children as well as offer education and information about local community resources for young children and families in a fun and interactive setting.
"FirstHealth's Community Health Services team is offering invaluable assistance to help combat this epidemic in North Carolina, where youth obesity rates are the fifth worst in the nation," Molloy said. "They have showcased the breadth of the problem in their region, where rates are alarmingly higher than across North Carolina. FirstHealth exemplifies the kind of civic responsibility and leadership we need in all levels of government and private industry if we're going to turn the corner on obesity."
Anyone needing more information about childhood obesity and how to become involved in making a difference can contact FirstHealth Community Health Services at 715-1925.
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