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Taking the Weight Off of Childhood Obesity in NC

October 27, 2010

CHAPEL HILL, N. C. - North Carolina will soon become the first state in the country to tackle obesity in its youngest children, through a program that targets nutrition and physical activity. Experts say learning these lessons early can help ensure that kids have fewer pounds to shed later.

North Carolina's childhood obesity rate is the fifth highest in the country, so the new initiative is aimed at the preschool crowd. The partnership – announced this week between Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation and the North Carolina Partnership for Children, the organization that leads "Smart Start" – builds on existing programs to bring nutrition education to children up to age five. Patty Rhodes, childcare health consultant, explains why these outreach programs are so important.

"Many of these overweight children were already becoming overweight before their second birthdays. Since our children are becoming overweight at earlier ages, the earlier we can intervene, the better."

The partnership will launch "Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children," supplying $3 million to Smart Start-administered nutrition education programs across the state.

The Shape NC initiative will incorporate healthy eating practices as well as physical activity for children from birth to age five. Kathy Higgins, with the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, explains how this has the potential to impact the health of both children and their parents.

"We know that early childhood is the most critical time period of a person's life. We hope that a healthy lifestyle becomes habit and culture in all of North Carolina families."

Between ages two and four, more than 31 percent of North Carolina's children are either already overweight or are at risk for becoming overweight.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC