Grant to help address childhood obesity epidemic in NC

April 2, 2013

The North Carolina State Alliance of YMCAs has been selected to participate in the Y’s Statewide Pioneering Healthier Communities (PHC) – an initiative aimed at addressing the childhood obesity epidemic through policy, sytems and environmental change. The North Carolina State Alliance of YMCAs is one of 14 to receive funds from YMCA of the USA, which was recently awarded nearly $7.9 million from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) to expand the Statewide PHC initiative from six states to a total of 21 states. The focus is on states with high rates of childhood obesity.

Launched in 2009 with a $6.8 million grant from the RWJF, Statewide PHC addresses the childhood obesity epidemic through policy and environmental changes at the community and state level. Through Statewide PHC, the Y convenes state and community leaders to work together to implement strategies that support healthy living.

“The Y and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation have a mutual commitment to ensuring our nation’s children grow to be healthy, happy and strong,” said YMCA of the USA President and Chief Executive Officer Neil Nicoll. “Our work together over the past three years has resulted in community- and state-level changes that will help children and their families live healthier lives for years to come. We are grateful to be able to continue this important relationship.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, as of 2010, 16.9 percent of our nation’s children and adolescents aged two to 19 years old were obese. More than 2/3 adults in North Carolina are overweight or obese. An estimated 30% of children ages 1 – 17 in North Carolina are overweight or obese.

“The YMCA of Western North Carolina began implementing PHC programs addressing childhood obesity in 2007, with increasingly positive results,” said Paul Vest, President and CEO, YMCA of Western North Carolina.  “This is a great opportunity to see our local PHC efforts expanded to the state level.”

Within 37 communites in six states, the Y’s Statewide PHC has advanced over 2,300 strategies and changes to tackle this growing health crisis. To date, these strategies and changes have impacted up to 2.3 million lives.

These communities have implemented strategies that include: helping families put healthier food on the table by bringing fresh fruits and vegetables to neighborhoods where there are no healthy food options; giving parents peace of mind by making safe walking routes to schools possible; helping to keep a generation of kids healthier by working with schools to increase physical education and physical activity during the school day or by working with afterschool programs to provide additional opportunities outside the school day for physical activity.

The Y is really good at energizing communities and empowering them to tackle comprehensive policy approaches,” said John Govea, JD, MPA, senior program officer at RWJF. “As we all strive to reverse childhood obesity by 2015, the Y’s collaborative approach, which helps turn local innovations into statewide efforts, will be critical.

Statewide PHC is part of the Y’s Healthier Communities Initiatives. In more than 220 communities across the nation, Ys are working in collaboration with other community leaders on an intentional effort to ensure that healthy living is within reach of the people who live in those communities.

Learn more about the Y’s Healthier Communities Initiatives at