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Expanding Fight Against NC Childhood Obesity

October 10, 2011

ASHEBORO, N.C. - Nipping the problem of childhood obesity in the bud, by targeting children aged from birth to five years: That's the strategy of Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children. The program began last year and is now expanding to 10 more communities in North Carolina, a state that has the 11th-highest childhood obesity rate in the country. The program teaches early childhood educators how to effectively engage young children in physical activity. Communities are also assisted in creating nutrition programs, vegetable gardens and family physical activities.

Katherine Davis is director of The Growing Place child care center in Asheboro. Her center has had Shape NC in place since May.

"The transition's been great. The children aren't complaining, 'I don't want this, this isn't something I like.' They're just like, 'Wow, this is good.'"

Shape NC is administered by the North Carolina Partnership for Children, the organization that also oversees Smart Start, and is supported by the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation. A $3 million investment from the Blue Cross Foundation funds three phases of the Shape NC program.

Davis says the children she cares for who are are considered obese are enthusiastic about the change, and learning a better way to eat and stay healthy.

"With the small population that I do have, the parents are really on board with this, and I think making the change here has also made a change at home."

By choosing to target the youngest of our population, Shape NC and Smart Start hope to create healthy habits for life, based on numerous studies that indicate children from birth to age five are in a critical development stage. Some 600 children benefited from the first expansion of Shape NC last year.

Shape NC is expanding to Alamance, Alexander, Anson, Carteret, Chatham, Iredell, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell-Yancey, and Wayne counties.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC