FirstHealth Receives Grant for Childhood Obesity Program
FirstHealth of the Carolinas has received a $360,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to improve opportunities for physical activity and access to affordable healthy foods for children and families in Moore and Montgomery counties.
The Moore/Montgomery area was among 41 sites selected for the RWJF "Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities" initiative from a rigorous selection process that drew more than 500 proposals from across the country.
Like most parts of the South, Moore and Montgomery counties face high rates of childhood obesity. To address that problem, FirstHealth of the Carolinas will use the funds from the "Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities" grant to build on the strengths and assets of each community to create policies and environments geared toward reducing childhood obesity throughout the region.
The local program will focus on five areas within the region - Candor, Mount Gilead, Robbins, Aberdeen and Southern Pines - that were selected according to high free and reduced lunch rates at local schools. Local task forces will conduct assessments, prioritize needs and create policies and environmental changes that prioritize the health of each community in an effort to reduce childhood obesity.
In North Carolina, for example, partnerships in Moore and Montgomery counties are working to connect convenience stores that serve rural areas with local farmers to encourage the purchase of fresh produce and the acceptance of WIC Farmers Market Coupons and SNAP payments.
Local partnerships are also working with parks and recreation departments to develop policies for healthy eating at sporting events and camps as well as on programs that encourage children to walk or ride their bicycle to school, and on the development of greenway trails that connect neighborhoods with high percentages of children with local parks.
"As with most successful community-based initiatives, First-Health strongly believes that the policy and environmental changes resulting from previous community programs are both a result of, and contributors to, a greater community momentum," says FirstHealth CEO Charles T. Frock. "This momentum, which seems to have assumed a life of its own, has brought local community groups together around the issue of childhood obesity in a way that is truly collaborative, effective and sustainable. The momentum continues and will undoubtedly contribute to the success of our 'Healthy Kids, Healthy Communit-ies efforts."
According to data collected in Montgomery County during the 2007-2008 school year, more than a quarter of children in grades K-12 are obese and another 18 percent are overweight with obesity increasing with each advancing grade.
"To reverse this epidemic, communities are going to have to rally around their kids and provide the opportunities they need to be healthy," said Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. "Through this project, FirstHealth of the Carolinas and its partners are doing what it takes to make sure children lead better lives."
"Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities" is a $33 million national program and RWJF's largest investment to date in community-based solutions to childhood obesity. With nine Leading Sites chosen in late 2008, the program now spans 50 communities from Seattle to Puerto Rico.
All are targeting improvements in local policies and their community environment - changes that research indicates could have the greatest impact on healthier eating, more active living and obesity prevention. "Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities" is a cornerstone of RWJF's $500 million commitment to reverse the country's childhood obesity epidemic by 2015.
The other 40 other cities and regions just announced as "Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities" sites are: Benton County, Ore.; Boone and Newton Counties, Ark.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Caguas, Puerto Rico; Charleston, W.Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; Hamilton County, Ohio; Cook County, Ga.; Cuba, N.M.; Denver, Colo.; Desoto, Marshall and Tate Counties, Miss.; Duval County, Fla.; El Paso, Texas; Fitchburg, Mass.; Flint, Mich.; Greenville, S.C.; Houghton County, Minn.; Houston, Texas; Jackson, Miss.; Jefferson County, Ala.; Kane County, Ill.; Kansas City, Mo.; Kingston, N.Y.; Knoxville, Tenn.; Lake Worth, Greenacres and Palm Springs, Fla.; Milledgeville, Ga.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Multnomah County, Ore.; Nash and Edgecombe Counties, N.C.; New Orleans, La.; Omaha, Neb.; Philadelphia, Pa.; Phoenix, Ariz.; Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.; Rochester, N.Y.; San Antonio, Texas; San Felipe Pueblo, N.M.; Silver City, N.M.; Spartanburg, S.C.; Watsonville and Parajo Valley, Calif.
All were selected because of strong vision, partnership and a commitment to make lasting change in their communities. The new program grants will continue through June 2013.
To learn more, visit www.healthykidshealthycommunities.org.
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