By Todd Cohen
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Preventing chronic disease is the focus of a new five-year, $10 million initiative of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem.
The foundation is funding 16 projects in poor areas throughout the state to reduce chronic disease rates by educating people most at risk because of tobacco use, poor nutrition and physical inactivity.
Duke University Medical Center in Durham will administer the program, the largest and latest in a series of broad initiatives launched by the $600 million-asset foundation that define particular health issues and invite communities to develop local solutions.
Previous initiatives have focused on home and community-based services for the elderly; providing assistive technology for adults with disabilities in rural areas; better management and prevention of diabetes; and improving preventive health care service for poor people in rural areas.
Including the new initiative, the foundation has invested nearly $22 million over the past seven years to foster community-based solutions to health-care problems.
Projects in the new initiative range from creating church fitness centers for Hispanics in Alamance County to be supervised by Elon University, to providing anti-smoking programs for public school students and adults in Morganton.
The local programs target behavior that could reduce the impact of chronic disease, which kills seven of 10 Americans, according to Duke.
Preventable chronic illness consumes 70 percent of all medical spending in the United States, and 80 percent of all chronic disease is caused by physical inactivity, poor nutrition and smoking, Duke says.
In North Carolina, Duke says, fewer than one in five adults exercise regularly, young people are three to four times more likely to be obese than are young people in other states and 36 percent of high school students smoke.