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Governor Urges Public Health Leaders to Prioritize Prevention

For release: Immediate    Jan. 28, 2011
Contact: Julie Henry-(919)707-5053/ 733-9190

RALEIGH — Calling obesity the “most critical public health issue” facing our state, Gov. Bev Perdue today said innovation will be the key to controlling health care costs and moving North Carolina to a better state of health. The governor spoke to more than 250 public health leaders from across the state at the annual State Health Directors Conference in Raleigh.

“The work being done at the local level, through health departments, educators, schools, non profit organizations and the business community combined with the support of all state agencies is essential to inspire people to action.” Gov. Perdue said.

Under Perdue’s leadership, the Governor’s Task Force for Healthy Carolinians developed Healthy North Carolina 2020, a set of objectives that will drive state- and local-level activities to improve the health of all North Carolinians. Focus areas for Healthy NC 2020 include tobacco use, nutrition and physical activity, risky sexual behavior, substance abuse, environmental risks, injury, infectious disease/foodborne illness, mental health, dental health, maternal and infant health, social determinants of health, and chronic disease.

North Carolina is ranked 35th in the nation for overall health. Healthy NC 2020 calls for concerted and coordinated state, regional and local efforts to improve the health of North Carolina’s communities with specific targets in mind. It also includes evidence-based strategies for meeting the goals, ranging from work-wellness programs to bike-friendly community transportation systems.

“Our goals are ambitious but achievable,” State Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel said. “One example is our goal to increase the percentage of adults getting the recommended amount of physical activity each day by 14 percent. But it’s more than asking folks to change their behaviors. We need buy-in from communities to make the healthy choice the easy choice.”

Perdue acknowledged that the Division of Public Health, like all state agencies, will be challenged to meet the goals of Healthy NC 2020 with fewer resources.

“Just as I am facing an opportunity to reinvent state government during this time of economic difficulty,” Perdue said, “we are also given an opportunity to change the way we think about public health for all of our citizens.”

The Healthy North Carolina 2020 Plan is available for download at www.publichealth.nc.gov/hnc2020.