Our mission at the Foundation is to improve the health and well-being of all North Carolinians. However, we know that the first 2,000 days of a child’s life are the most critical developmental period in his or her lifetime. We recognize the opportunity to affect change at the earliest moments in life in order to set the trajectory for a healthier future. As obesity has become a major public health crisis, we have seen the struggle to affect change once a person is already overweight or obese. With investments in early childhood, we can prevent the issue before it starts. The health status of our state’s youngest children emphasizes the need to start early, as North Carolina’s rates of overweight and obesity in very young children are not trending down. Currently, almost three out of every 10 (28.5 percent) low-income young children ages 2-4 years are either overweight or obese. Over the past 30 years, the obesity rate has more than doubled among young children ages 2-4 years in North Carolina, increasing from 6.9 percent in 1981 to 15.4 percent in 2011.
Strategy: Early Childhood
Our children deserve more than just a healthy choice – they deserve a healthy start to life. By establishing an environment of health in the critical early years, we have the opportunity to focus on prevention. To do so, our investments in early childhood focus on policy, practice and environmental change with a specific focus in the child care and community settings. Early childhood has been a cornerstone of the Foundation’s strategy since its inception in November 2000. Be Active Kids® was the Foundation’s first Signature Program, developed in response to the lack of programming focused on physical activity and healthy eating for North Carolina children ages four and five. Over time, our strategy evolved from a focus on programs to a focus on the environments, policies and practices that shape the experiences for young children. As a result, we have made substantial investments in outdoor learning environments, assessments and technical assistance to promote best practices in nutrition and physical activity in child care, and a statewide strategy to impact health in early childhood. Additionally, we have expanded Be Active Kids® to focus specifically on developmentally appropriate movement and play from birth through age 5.