Moore, Montgomery counties among 41 sites selected for national program to fight childhood obesity
January 12, 2010
FirstHealth of the Carolinas receives Robert Wood Johnson Foundation major grant to combat childhood obesity
PINEHURST – 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, Mt. 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, FirstHealth 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 Communities 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 Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., MBA, 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.
Visit www.healthykidshealthycommunities.org to learn more about these communities’ work and plans.
About FirstHealth of the Carolinas
FirstHealth of the Carolinas is a private, non-governmental, not-for-profit health care network serving 15 counties in the mid-Carolinas. FirstHealth is licensed for three hospitals with a total of 559 beds. Other programs include a rehabilitation center, three sleep disorders centers, three dental clinics, six family care centers, six fitness centers, a laundry, four charitable foundations, a Hospice program, home health services and an insurance plan as well as critical care transport, EMS and medical transport services. For more information, visit the FirstHealth Web site at www.firsthealth.org.
About Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities
“Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities,” a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), advances community-based solutions that will help reverse the childhood obesity epidemic. It focuses on changing policies and environments to support active living and healthy eating among children and families. The program places special emphasis on reaching children who are at highest risk for obesity on the basis of income, race/ethnicity and geographic location. It will support RWJF’s efforts to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States by 2015.
The Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities national program office is housed at Active Living by Design, part of the North Carolina Institute for Public Health at the Gillings School of Global Public Health at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Established in 2001 as an RWJF national program, Active Living By Design now serves funders and partnerships across the country that are fostering community-led change to build a culture of active living and healthy eating.
About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years, the Foundation has brought experience, commitment and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those if serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. For more information, visit www.rwjf.org.