Last week, Blue Cross / Blue Shield of North Carolina announced a major initiative to attack the obesity problem in the state - and the NC State University College of Design is a part of the fight.
Shape NC brings together the College’s Natural Learning Initiative (NLI) with two other high profile health promotion partners - Be Active Kids and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Nutrition and Physical Activity Self-Assessment for Child Care (NAP-SACC) - to tackle one of the largest health problems of the new century. Nearly a third of all children in North Carolina between the ages of 2 and 4 are overweight or considered at risk of becoming so. The state has the fifth highest rate of childhood obesity in the nation.
NLI’s Preventing Obesity by Design (POD) program will receive $750,000 over three years to create more outdoor learning environments at NC child care centers (where studies show the risk of childhood obesity is greatest) and to set up a “Green Desk” online resource center for child care centers to turn to when they develop outdoor experiences for children.
The Natural Learning Initiative is one of several real-world research and extension initiatives in the College’s Laboratory for the Development of Healthy and Sustainable Communities.
BCBS Foundation of NC is promoting Shape NC through the North Carolina Partnership for Children, Inc. (NCPC), the state’s Smart Start organization.
The award is just the latest of several grants received by NLI:
- The NC Office of Early Learning recently awarded $51,000 to NLI to create the first four of eight demonstration outdoor learning environments in the state’s eight State Board of Education regions in the first year.
- NLI will utilize $91,080 to assist the NC Division of Child Development (NC-DCD) by creating a specialized network of DCD consultants, regulatory staff, and environmental assessors who can work together to create improved outdoor play and learning spaces.
- Through a grant with the Institute of Museums and Library Services, NLI will partner with the Chicago Zoological Society to create and test a training program and early childhood nature play curriculum for use by education professionals at museums, zoos, aquariums, and nature centers.
- The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, through Active Living Research, San Diego State University, has funded an interdisciplinary “research translation” project on children and family use of urban parks led by NLI in collaboration with the Department of Parks Recreation and Tourism Management, NC State, and State University of New York-Buffalo, Departments Pediatrics and Exercise and Nutritional Sciences.
The Natural Learning Initiative was co-founded by Director and Professor Robin Moore and by Education Specialist Nilda Cosco, Ph.D. For more information, visit www.naturalearning.org.