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A Little Healthy Competition

There’s nothing like a little competition to make things interesting.

You may not think pitting schools against a local hospital would bring a community together, but in one North Carolina county, that’s just what happened.

In Moore County, North Carolina, good health and obesity prevention have become community priorities. In the process, community health leaders learned that changing communities into healthier places to live, learn, work and play is all about relationships and ingenuity. And a healthy dose of friendly competition doesn’t hurt, either.

In Moore County, a unique partnership exists – the school system contracts with the hospital for their school nursing needs. Knowing of this existing set up, a state consultant contacted Patricia Martin, the chair of school nursing in Moore County, about participating in the Childhood Obesity Prevention Demonstration Project (COPDP). The COPDP was bringing the community together to create more opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity in pre-schools, schools, hospitals, worksites and faith communities.

Building on their existing partnerships, the school staff and hospital staff dived into the project – and a competition was born.

In the spirit of health and friendly one-upmanship, Moore Fit ( pitted school employees against hospital employees. The goal: to see whose employees could get the most activity and eat the most colorful fruits and veggies.

The hospital integrated employee wellness programs, purchased a cooking cart for healthy cooking demonstrations and provided financial incentives to employees for using the fitness center and meeting their own personal health goals. One of the most popular added benefits is the Farmer’s Market that takes place once a week at the hospital. More than 500 people shop weekly for local produce in the hospital’s parking lot.

As part of the COPDP, healthy lifestyle messages began flooding the airwaves and newspapers. They blanketed billboards throughout the county. These messages and word-of-mouth about the Moore Fit competition have inspired others to get in on the action – local businesses started their own competitions – even an Iron Chef-style cook-off for local restaurants to create healthy recipes.

But the spirit of healthy competition hasn’t stopped there. Starting in the schools, Martin’s team began the In-school Prevention of Obesity and Disease (IsPOD) program throughout their K-9 grades. They purchased physical education equipment for each school and had health educators conduct staff wellness education for the faculty and staff at the schools.

What began as a way to make schools healthier turned into a competition between schools to see who can be the healthiest.

Schools took stock of their vending machines and ditched unhealthy fare. They now have half their foods and drinks meeting nutrition standards – and hope to be at 100 percent in the next two years. Students are joining in on the fun. On Valentines Day, instead of exchanging candy and sweets, the students brought in fruits, veggies and other healthy treats.

Preschools are on board, too. Using the Nutrition and Physical Activity Self Assessment for Child Care, changes are underway in child care settings. The day care operators analyzed five child care centers and implemented policy change that requires healthier foods and increased physical activity for both the children and their care givers.

Moore health leaders are already seeing changes throughout the community. Kids are standing up and requesting healthier food and activity options from the adults, community partnerships are strengthening, and businesses are realizing the benefits of healthy employees and building a reputation for being a health-conscious employer.

“What we have done is really create grassroots change,” said Martin.

And change they have. In the spirit of competition this community is working together to make healthy choices and a healthy lifestyle a prize won by all.

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