Raleigh, NC – Smart Start, the state’s award-winning early childhood initiative, has announced the next 10 communities selected to implement Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children. Shape NC is a groundbreaking initiative that tackles the childhood obesity epidemic by focusing on young children, from birth through age five, in child care and community settings. The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation has partnered with The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC), the organization that oversees Smart Start, to invest $3 million for 30 Smart Start partnerships to administer Shape NC over three years. In this second phase, the program expands to10 Smart Start local partnerships serving Alamance, Alexander, Anson, Carteret, Chatham, Iredell, McDowell, Mecklenburg, Mitchell-Yancey, and Wayne counties.
Last year, eight child care programs in Buncombe, Guilford, Onslow, Orange, Randolph, and New Hanover counties as well at the Nash-Edgecombe area and the state’s Western-most counties, launched the program. After the first year, 120 early childhood and other related professionals are more effective at engaging children in physical activities indoors and outdoors, improving activity levels for 600 children birth through 5. In addition, Smart Start partnerships in those counties worked with other stakeholders to develop community-wide obesity prevention plans, resulting in upgrades to community parks, plots for community vegetable gardens, and family fun physical activity events.
“Shape NC addresses a staggering epidemic our state is facing,” said Stephanie Fanjul, president of The North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc., the organization that leads Smart Start. “Bringing a program that reinforces the benefits of a healthy weight, nutritious foods, physical activity and healthy living to children, their teachers and families is a powerful step in the right direction.”
North Carolina has the 11th highest childhood obesity rate (18.6%) in the nation, according to a 2011 report by the Trust for America’s Health. Shape NC seeks to create a replicable, sustainable statewide early childhood model to reduce obesity rates among young children by improving their daily nutrition and physical activity as well as their outdoor environments in child care and the community in general.
“From Cherokee County to Edgecombe County, local child care programs will become the centers to help bring the benefits of nutritious foods, physical activity and healthy living to children, their families and teachers,” said Kathy Higgins, BCBSNC Foundation president. “The expansion to include these ten communities continues our progress at addressing the childhood obesity epidemic.”
For more information about Shape NC or other Smart Start programs, visit www.smartstart.org or contact your local Smart Start partnership.
About Smart Start:
The earliest years of childhood are critical. Experiences during this time literally shape the structure of the brain. Because today’s children are tomorrow’s leaders, parents and workers, everyone has a stake in making sure all children have the experiences they need to thrive. Smart Start is the system that brings together all the people involved in a young child’s life—families, teachers, doctors, caregivers, social workers, and many others—to ensure every child has all they need for healthy growth and development. For more information, visit www.smartstart.org.
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of North Carolinians. The Foundation focuses on three key areas: improving health outcomes of populations served by safety net organizations; increasing physical activity and encouraging healthy eating habits; and increasing the effectiveness of nonprofit organizations through free training and signature programs. More information is available at www.bcbsncfoundation.org.