Chatham County Partnership for Children has previously participated in the Shape NC project to help address childhood obesity in our state’s youngest children, age 0-5. The project involved working with a local child care center to improve nutrition, increase physical activity, and create natural play areas for both the children and child care providers. Our Model Early Learning Center is Chatham Child Development Center.  Shape NC is a continuing collaboration between the North Carolina Partnership for Children and the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation to promote children’s healthy development and prevent early childhood obesity among young children, ages 0-5, in North Carolina.  Recent funding from the US Social Innovations Fund has redirected the work of the project to collect rigorous research on effective interventions and specific strategies.  Chatham County voluntarily chose not to participate in  this next phase of the state level Shape NC project.   We do place a high priority on the promotion of children’s healthy development and the prevention of early childhood obesity among young children, ages 0-5, in Chatham County.

What is the Problem?

  • North Carolina has the 11th highest childhood obesity rate in the nation
  • Nearly one out of three (31%) children ages 2-4 who participate in the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in North Carolina is overweight or obese.
  • Obesity rates among preschoolers ages 2 to 5 have doubled in the past four decades.
  • The average Body Mass Index (BMI) for Chatham children, age 0 to 5, is higher than the state average and almost twice the optimal BMI.
  • Preschool children spend over four hours a day watching television and videos, including time in child care
  • Only 25% of children age 2 to 11 eat three servings of vegetables a day and less than 50% eat two servings of fruit a day.
  • Overweight and obese children have an increased risk of developing health problems, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

What Can We Do?

The Institute of Medicine recommends the following strategies to prevent early childhood obesity:

Measure children’s height and weight at pediatric visits

Doctors should inform parents if their child is overweight and recommend appropriate resources and referrals.

Move, move, and move some more

Provide opportunities for 60-90 minutes of physical activity throughout the day for both children and their caregivers.

Encourage nutritious eating practices, such as

  • Breastfeeding
  • Eating nutrient-dense foods, such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat/non-fat dairy, and whole grains

Limit screen time for children, age 2-5 years

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that no more than one to two hours of quality TV and videos a day for older children and no screen time for children under the age of two.

Increase sleep

Research indicates that less sleep leads to weight gain in all ages.  Over the past 20 years, children of all ages have experienced a decrease in sleep duration.  This decrease is most pronounced among children, age 0-3 years old.