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.
In April of 2010, HWTF launched a new social marketing campaign, Fit Family, in the Greenville-New Bern television market as part of its childhood obesity prevention initiative. The campaign is the latest in a series of ‘Fit’ programs funded by HWTF in response to recommendations of the Study Committee on Childhood Obesity: Fit Community, Fit Together, Fit Kids and A+ Fit Schools. The other programs focus on environmental and policy changes that support increased physical activity and improved nutrition. The Fit Family effort is the first to focus directly on individual changes in behavior that are linked to childhood obesity.
HWTF’s Fit Family campaign is one of the first state-sponsored social marketing campaigns in the nation to address childhood obesity and will speak to parents of children ages 3 to 10 through ads designed to appeal to children as well as parents.
The campaign’s tag line, “5-2-1 Almost None – Fit Family” is intended to remind parents and children of the four key behaviors that are being promoted through the ads – the campaign’s “secret formula” for becoming a fit family. The campaign features “Professor Wisely” and his assistant, “Zedo,” life-sized puppet characters who share the Professor’s secret formula of healthful behaviors: eating at least five servings of fruits/vegetables daily, limiting television screen time to no more than two hours a day, increasing physical activity to at least one hour a day, and consuming almost no sugary beverages.
Parents are encouraged to visit the campaign’s Web site (www.FitFamilyNC.com) for more information. Parents and children are welcomed on the Web site’s home page by Professor Wisely and Zedo, and the Web site offers a section for parents as well as a playground section for children, including educational games such as “What’s in Your Lunch?” and a coloring book with the puppet characters to reinforce campaign messages.
The pilot campaign will be evaluated through pre- and post-campaign surveys by the University of North Carolina’s Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program at the UNC-Chapel Hill School of Medicine. If the evaluation findings demonstrate an impact in the test market, HWTF will explore prospects for launching the campaign statewide.