North Carolina has the fifth highest rate of childhood obesity in the country. And more than 31 percent of the state's children ages 2 to 4 are considered at risk for becoming overweight or are overweight.
Two groups announced Tuesday that they'll be working together to tackle the epidemic. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and The North Carolina Partnership for Children, which oversees Smart Start in North Carolina, will work together on a three-year, $3 million initiative that will focus on kids from birth to age five.
The foundation is funding the project, which will work with Smart Start groups that work with child care centers across the state. The new program is called Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children.
The program will target children in child care facilities, their families and caregivers by increasing the knowledge and awareness of nutrition and importance of physical activity.
Among the plans:
- 30 communities will create partnerships and action plans for obesity prevention in young children.
- 1,500 early childhood and other related professionals will learn about outdoor learning environments and physical activities for children in child care and use them.
- 750 children attending model Shape NC early learning programs will maintain a healthy weight.
- 35 early childhood staff in five pilot centers will model healthy behaviors as a result of participating in a health and wellness program focusing on weight management and maintenance; healthy eating; fitness and smoking cessation.