The sixteen member Task Force included representatives from the following eight organizations: Health and Wellness Trust Fund, North Carolina Institute for Public Health, UNC Active Living by Design, Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, N.C. Hospital Association, N.C. Parent Teacher Association, American Heart Association and School Nutrition Association of North Carolina. The Task Force was chaired by Leah Devlin, N.C. Health Director, and Howard Lee, Chairman, N.C. State Board of Education. Four main messages emerged from the Task Force: 1) A strong call to action from the Legislative Branch and Governor, 2) Now is the time for action, 3) The state must prioritize the funding needed to reverse the obesity trend, and 4) Measurement of progress in preventing childhood obesity is critical. Based on the legislative directive the Task Force developed 22 recommendations. The following five recommendations were listed as immediate priorities:
1. The N.C. Division of Public Health along with its partners should expand obesity prevention efforts in local communities including: A) the establishment of one FTE in each local health department to coordinate obesity prevention across the community and B) full implementation of Eat Smart, Move More, NC’s Plan to Prevent Overweight, Obesity and Related Chronic Diseases in selected local communities and identification of best practices for improving nutrition and increasing physical activity that will ultimately be adopted across the state. Cost $10.5 million annually.
2. The N.C. State Board of Education should encourage the N.C. Department of Public Instruction to develop or identify academically rigorous honors-level courses in health and/or physical education that can be offered at the high school level.
3. The N.C. General Assembly should direct and fund each LEA to establish one full-time Healthful Living Coordinator in the Central Office whose responsibility is to design, support, implement, manage, and evaluate a district-wide Coordinated School Health Program, which will address childhood obesity prevention and other health related issues. Cost $8.6, $5.7 and $1.2 million over 3 years to DPI.
4. Elementary schools should fully implement the SBE-adopted nutrition standards and should receive support to do this under the following conditions: A) the school district is in full compliance with the N.C. State Board of Education policy on nutrition standards in elementary schools; and B) the school district is not charging indirect cots to the Child Nutrition Program until the program achieves and sustains a three-month operating balance. Cost $20 million annually to DPI.
5. The N.C. General Assembly should require the N.C. State Board of Education to implement a five-year phase-in requirement of quality physical education by 2013, including NASPE Opportunities to Learn with 150 minutes of elementary school physical education weekly, 225 minutes weekly of “Healthful Living” in middle schools, and two units of “Healthful Living” as a graduation requirement for high schools. The SBE shall be required to report to Education Oversight Committee annually regarding the physical education program and Healthy-Active Children Policy. Funding for full implementation by 2013 to be determined.
In addition, to the five “Immediate Priorities” list, the remaining 17 recommendations addressed a 30 minute lunch period for students, the use of a common metrics for all agencies implementing childhood obesity prevention strategies, requires principals whose schools operate vending machines to sign a Memorandum of Agreement to ensure machines contain only those foods and beverages consistent with allowable contents pursuant to the General Statute, to establish statewide nutrition standards for foods and beverage in school-operated vending machines, school stores, snack bars, fundraisers and all other food sale operations on the school campus during the instructional day. Also, the recommendations include the creation of an interagency commission to include representation from the SBE to develop plans to promote active livable communities by expanding Safe Routes to schools, providing funds for the creation and maintenance of sidewalks, bicycle lanes, parks and other green spaces. This commission would address liability protection for shared use of schools and examine policies citing the development of more walkable schools. The commission would also examine the impact of these policies on school transportation costs and economic development. Other recommendations were to encourage Boards of Education to work collaboratively with local policy makers to develop a “Memorandum of Understanding” to promote joint use of all county facilities with the focus of promoting physical activity between schools and community during and after school hours. Finally, the School Planning Section should provide recommendations for building joint park and school facilities and include physical activity space in the facility needs survey for 2010 and subsequent years. The costs for these recommendations are not listed.