In North Carolina, alarmingly high rates of obesity are resulting in an increasing prevalence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and several types of cancer. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that obesity-related expenses add up to more than $2.1 billion in North Carolina alone, with just over half of that coming at the expense of taxpayers, via Medicare and Medicaid. The community in which one lives, works and plays can help or hinder one's own personal health by providing opportunities to make healthy lifestyle choices. The community can offer safe places for people of all abilities to walk, bike, and play safely, as well as include stores that sell fresh fruits and vegetables. Communities across North Carolina can take a leading role to help positively affect the health of its residents.
HWTF Solution (program description)
Fit Community NC is a program sponsored jointly by HWTF and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC (BCBSNC). It recognizes and rewards municipal and county efforts to promote physical activity, healthy eating, and tobacco-free programs, policies, environments and lifestyles. Fit Community designations and grants reward NC communities for creating and implementing a sustainable action plan to avoid or remedy preventable chronic health problems in their areas of North Carolina. Fit Community grantees tailor their activities to best fit the needs of their communities. Projects target children, work sites, neighborhoods, schools, minority populations and seniors. The HWTF-BCBSNC partnership awarded 15 designations to NC communities in 2006 and 2007. In the same time frame, HWTF also awarded 16 grants to local organizations that will lead their communities towards being designated Fit Communities.
Key Accomplishments (outcomes to date)
- During just the first year of funding, the Fit Community NC grantees conducted 13 events promoting physical activity and/or healthy eating, sponsored 15 community and school Fit Community programs, implemented 15 physical projects – including walking trails, climbing walls, park enhancements and sidewalk improvements – and were instrumental in passing 11 policies for sustaining their efforts.
- Now approaching the end of their grants, Phase I grantees are working toward sustainability, while Phase II grantees are moving toward implementation of community-based programs and projects.