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North Carolina Addresses CDC Physical Inactivity Findings Through Statewide Effort to Create Healthier Communities

For release: Immediate    Feb. 23, 2011
Contact: Julie Henry, 919-707-5053

RALEIGH — Information recently released from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicates that many adults in North Carolina are not physically active or aren’t getting exercise other than daily functions at work. State leaders already are working to change this trend through a new statewide effort to address how communities are designed as a way to encourage people to be more active by improving safety, attractiveness and accessibility.

In 2009, the North Carolina Division of Public Health (DPH) received $3 million in federal funding from the CDC through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support a Healthy Environments Initiative. This initiative addresses the complex issue of built environments by working with and within both state and local organizations and agencies to identify needs and barriers to healthy environments. As part of the grant, DPH is partnering with 11 municipalities across the state, as well as the N.C. Department of Transportation, the N.C. Department of Commerce and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to create a picture of the policies and realities that have helped form the current state of health.

“We need to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” State Health Director Dr. Jeff Engel said. “By creating communities where people can be more physically active wherever they are, we will reduce the burden of obesity and chronic disease that is so costly to our state.”

To support local efforts, a public information campaign is being developed to educate North Carolinians on the effect man-made “built environments” have on our overall health and lifestyles. The campaign, which launches statewide in April, will mobilize North Carolinians to get more involved, asking citizens from Sparta to Wilmington to see the world around them in a new way, connect with the issue personally, and act to shape a better built environment for their communities.

According to the CDC, rates of leisure-time physical inactivity are as low as 16 percent in Orange County and as high as 37 percent in Robeson County, both of which are pilot communities in the Healthy Environments Initiative. Other pilot communities include: Gastonia, Sparta, Eden, Wilmington, Ahoskie, Waxhaw, Midland, Banner Elk, and Mt. Gilead.

“Cross-pollination of public health and city planners to develop built environments that will enable people to make good choices is critical,” said David Pugh, Town Administrator, Midland, NC, one of the 11 Healthy Environments Initiative pilot communities. “We are pleased to be partnering with the Division of Public Health as we build upon our land use plan to develop positive future growth for our citizens.”

Physical activity can help control weight, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers, strengthen bones and muscles, and improve mental health. A 2008 CDC survey found that 25.4 percent of U.S. adults did not spend any of their free time being physically active, including activities such as walking for exercise, gardening, golfing or running.

Links for Additional Information

  • The 2004-2008 CDC estimates, posted online at, provide estimates by county or county equivalents for leisure-time physical inactivity. The website also includes previously released diagnosed diabetes and obesity estimates for 2004-2008. The estimates are based on CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is an ongoing, state-based, random-digit–dialed telephone survey of the U.S. civilian, non-institutionalized population aged 18 years and older, and census data.
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