Since 2010, the Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) has worked with the NC Partnership for Children (NCPC) as a core implementation partner of Shape NC. The role of NLI is to engage communities and assist centers with renovating and naturalizing playgrounds to transform each into a stimulating outdoor learning environment (OLE), offering diverse opportunities for increased physical activity, healthy nutrition, and outdoor learning.
Shape NC: Healthy Starts for Young Children was created in 2010 as an initiative of (NCPC) through the support of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of NC Foundation. With its partners and associates, Shape NC assists communities across the state to promote healthy development among North Carolina’s youngest children and offers a program which integrates healthy eating, active living, and high quality outdoor learning environments in child care centers. The goal is to instill healthy behaviors early on, creating a solid foundation for a healthy life. In August 2016, along with the continued support of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation, NCPC was awarded a Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) Social Innovation Fund (SIF) grant to increase the number of children starting kindergarten at a healthy weight and ready to learn.
Why Is Shape NC Important?
At a time when the nation is facing rising health care costs and high obesity rates, Shape NC is taking a preventative approach to proactively address the issue, focusing on the state’s youngest children.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 1 in 8 preschoolers is obese in the US.
- In North Carolina, roughly three out of every 10 young low-income children ages 2 to 4 years are either overweight or obese.
- Children who are obese by age 6 or overweight by age 12 have greater than a 50 percent likelihood of becoming obese adults. According to a report by the Trust for America’s Health, almost a third of adult North Carolinians are obese.
- Approximately 38 percent of North Carolina’s children are enrolled in almost 5000 regulated childcare centers, where they receive most meals and spend the majority of their waking hours.
Shape NC brings together the expertise of GO NAPSACC in policy, practice, and nutrition combined with NLI’s built environment improvement process of Preventing Obesity by Design (POD), and the programming and training skills of Be Active Kids.® The aim is to create a robust network of trained local experts able to provide ongoing technical assistance for childcare centers. Shape NC is the first statewide initiative to combine multiple successful strategies and implement both a top-down and bottom-up approach to improve the health of children in childcare, their families, and their communities.
With a focus on childcare settings, Shape NC increases knowledge and awareness of healthy nutrition and physical activity practices for young children, as well as that of their families and teachers, aimed at increasing the number of young children at a healthy weight. Measures of success include improved nutrition and physical activity practices, healthier play and learning environments, and a state-level policy blueprint to impact the health of young children.
- Durham County: Child Care Services Association
- Wilson County, Wilson County Partnership for Children
- Randolph County, Randolph County Partnership for Children
- Wake County, Wake County Smart Start