RALEIGH, N.C. – Today, Fit Together named eight North Carolina cities and towns as a Fit Community, a new statewide designation at a ceremony held at Exploris Museum. The Fit Community designation recognizes North Carolina communities that have excelled in promoting healthier lifestyles among their residents.
Fit Together is the statewide initiative by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina (BCBSNC) and the N.C. Health and Wellness Trust Fund (HWTF) to combat obesity and overweight. Lt. Gov. Bev Perdue, chair of the HWTF, and Bob Greczyn, president and CEO of BCBSNC, presented the awards.
The following communities received the first-ever Fit Community designations: City of Asheville, Town of Chapel Hill, Town of Cramerton, City of Durham, City of Greensboro, City of Mount Airy, Town of Oak Island and the City of Wilmington. Pitt County received an Honorable Mention.
Fit Together launched the Fit Community program in 2005 to reward communities for supporting healthy eating, physical activity and tobacco-free living through policy and community infrastructure. All North Carolina municipalities and counties were eligible for the Fit Community designation and nearly fifty communities applied. Applications were judged based upon objective criteria collected from peer-reviewed studies and national programs, and the selection process was managed by Active Living by Design in Chapel Hill.
Mayors, school superintendents and local representatives from across the state accepted this honor on behalf of their communities. To download a photograph of the mayors receiving their awards, please visit FitTogetherNC.org .
Communities chosen for the Fit Community designation receive:
  • Highway signage for their community's entrance
  • A plaque for their mayor's office
  • Recognition on the Fit Together website, FitTogetherNC.org
  • Use of the Fit Community designation logo for all communications
"The programs in these communities are an example of the many wonderful things that North Carolina towns are doing to promote the health and well-being of their residents, and Fit Together is proud to acknowledge and support those efforts," said Lt. Gov. Perdue. Obesity has emerged as a major threat to children and adults across the United States, and especially here in North Carolina. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 61 percent of North Carolina adults are overweight or obese, and 25 percent reported no exercise in the prior 30 days. Fit Together's mission is to support programs and initiatives that address this growing problem.
"Leaders in these North Carolina communities have shown that providing infrastructure, such as bike trails and local farmers' markets, makes it easier for residents to adopt good habits," said Greczyn. "Healthy environments, combined with fitness-friendly policies, serve as an example for other local leaders across our state."
Communities also had the option of applying for grants to make improvements that will promote healthy lifestyles. E ight organizations each received up to $60,000 in grant funds from HWTF, which are available over the next two years. These Fit Community grants will be used to promote active living initiatives in the areas of physical activity and healthy eating.
The following organizations received HWTF Fit Community grants: Ashe County Health Council, City of Graham Recreation and Parks Department, City of Lumberton Recreation Department, Duplin Partners for Health, Haywood County Health Department, Heartworks Children's Medical Home Mission (Pamlico County), Mecklenburg County Health Department, and Sampson County Parks and Recreation Department.
In addition to the HWTF grant program, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation announced winners of its Fit Together grant program that supports rural communities. The Fit Together grant program rewards nonprofit organizations and government agencies that form innovative partnerships that improve access and remove barriers to physical activity in rural counties. Five nonprofit or governmental organizations were chosen for three-year grants of up to $40,000 each per year.
"Rural communities face particular resource and logistical challenges in providing parks, walking trails, exercise programs and other opportunities for physical activity for their residents," said Kathy Higgins, president of the BCBSNC Foundation. "These organizations have overcome those challenges to provide meaningful opportunities for their residents to live healthier lifestyles. They provide inspiring and practical examples to other communities that want to address the pressing public health crisis of physical inactivity."
The following community-based programs received a BCBSNC Foundation Fit Together grant: Fit Families of Chatham in Chatham County; Gateway to Healthy Living in Camden County; Walking to Jerusalem Faith Based Walking Program in Jackson County; Students Lead the Way to Fit Together "Move More Communities" at East Carolina University in Pitt County; and Walk Walnut Cove of Healthy Carolinians of Stokes in Stokes County.
About Active Living by Design:
Active Living by Design is a national program established to create, enhance and promote environments that make it safe and convenient for people to be more physically active. The goal of Active Living by Design is to encourage changes in design, transportation and policies to cultivate and support active living. The $15.5-million program is a national program of The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is based at the School of Public Health at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. For more information, please visit activelivingbydesign.org.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina:
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is a leader in delivering innovative health care products, services and information to more than 3.2 million members, including approximately 620,000 served on behalf of other Blue plans. For 72 years, the company has served its customers by offering health insurance at a competitive price and has served the people of North Carolina through support of community organizations, programs and events that promote good health. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. Access BCBSNC online at bcbsnc.com.
About Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation:
The Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation provides financial support to improve the health and well-being of North Carolinians. This mission is achieved through programs and services funded in response to grant requests, as well as through funding for programs supporting needs identified by the Foundation. The Foundation's primary focus areas include increasing access to health care for the uninsured and underinsured, minimizing or eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities, promoting physical activity, and providing screenings and health education (related to cardiac care, diabetes, obesity, and women's health). Since its inception in November 2000, the BCBSNC Foundation has awarded nearly $27 million in grants to organizations throughout the state. In addition to its grant program, the Foundation supports several signature programs. These programs include Be Active Kids SM, an award-winning program that teaches preschool children about nutrition and physical activity; and Healthy Community Institutes for Non-Profit Excellence, two-day intensive training sessions offered free of charge to all North Carolina nonprofits. Additional information about the Foundation's signature programs and grant requirements, as well as a list of all grants awarded can be found on our website at bcbsnc.com/foundation.
About NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund:
The NC Health and Wellness Trust Fund makes North Carolina stronger, both physically and economically, by funding programs that promote preventive health. Created by the General Assembly in 2000 to allocate a portion of North Carolina's share of the national tobacco settlement, HWTF has invested $127 million to support preventive health initiatives and $78 million to fund a prescription drug assistance program for seniors. For more information, please visit HealthWellNC.com.