Understanding that change is most effective when we work together, the North Carolina Alliance for Health’s (NCAH’s) founders—a small group of like-minded organizations and individuals with public health backgrounds—originally formed NCAH to improve North Carolina’s health and educate North Carolinians about the dangers of tobacco use. Since 2002, the coalition has grown from just a few organizations and individuals to more than 60 organizational members and partners and numerous individuals from diverse communities across the state.
In 2008, the Trust for America’s Health approached NCAH about a grant to promote obesity policy at the state level. NCAH voted to broaden its mission to include obesity policy and began consulting with obesity policy experts about how to move forward. NCAH created a committee structure to consider obesity-related issues and recruited interested organizations and individuals to the effort to advocate for obesity policy changes in NC. NCAH had its first major obesity prevention success in 2016, when $250,000 was included in the state budget to start the statewide Healthy Food Small Retailer Program, also known as the Healthy Corner Store Initiative. An additional $250,000 was appropriated in 2017 to continue the program.
Each year, obesity committee members choose the policy priorities on which NCAH will focus in the upcoming legislative session. The obesity committee chose healthy food financing and physical education in schools as the two primary policy priorities for 2018.
A complete list of the 2018 obesity policy priorities are as follows:
- Healthy Food Financing: Promote the elimination of food deserts in North Carolina through statewide, evidence based and/or evidence-informed policies and appropriations for healthy food financing, corner store initiatives, and other policies that improve access to healthy foods (including fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins).
- Seek an appropriation of $1 million in recurring state funds to expand the Healthy Food Small Retailer Program that increases the amount of healthy food being offered in existing corner stores in low- and moderate-income communities.
- Physical Activity and Physical Education: Promote the inclusion of PE in the state’s accountability system as a measure of school success and/or in the School Report Card. Promote policies that address standards-based curriculum, appropriate professional development for teachers, teacher certification/licensing, waivers/substitution, student assessment, and accountability. Support opportunities to engage in promoting physical activity.
- Water Access: Support efforts to ensure water is free, clean, safe, and accessible in school and childcare center settings.
- Built Environments: Support the ability of local communities to promote access to routine physical activity and healthy eating through active transportation, Complete Streets, and Safe Routes to School policies, including multi-modal transportation infrastructure (e.g., mass transit, sidewalks, bike lanes), recreation opportunities (e.g., parks, trails greenways, shared and open use policies), food venues (e.g., grocery stores, farmers' markets, community gardens), and the integration of healthy land use (“sustainable communities”).
- Worksite Wellness: Support evidence-based and/or evidence-informed policies that promote a healthy work environment for employees.
- Early Care and Education: Support improvements to statewide standards addressing evidence-based best practices in infant and child nutrition, outdoor learning and play, physical activity, breastfeeding, and screen time. Support the creation of a statewide designation or recognition to programs that meet these best practices.
- Out-of-School Time: Support funding to implement and monitor out-of-school time programs.
- School Foods: Monitor the implementation of policies that require all foods and beverages available in schools meet national nutrition guidelines and are fully funded. Support policies identified to reduce exposure to marketing and advertising of unhealthy foods in schools.
- Support and protect funding for evidence-based and/or evidence-informed obesity prevention programs and infrastructure.
Please visit www.ncallianceforhealth.org for more information about each policy priority listed.
The Alliance uses the Eat Smart, Move More NC Policy Strategy Platform to inform its obesity policy priorities.
“The North Carolina Alliance for Health’s expansion to address obesity prevention, in addition to tobacco prevention, has been an important landmark in the state’s public health landscape over the past few years. Due to their efforts to address various pressing health issues simultaneously, the Alliance continues to function as the key advocacy leader for preventive health in North Carolina.”
–Roxanne Elliott, 2017 Obesity Committee Co-Chair