Be Active expanding to Triad

Gary Gardner
Gary Gardner

Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — An effort to spur inactive people to get regular exercise that was launched in Western North Carolina in 2005 and expanded in 2010 to include the Triangle now is expanding again to the Triad.

Founded in 1991, Raleigh-based Be Active North Carolina aims by 2015 to introduce active living to one million sedentary North Carolinians, and to inspire 450,000 of them to live physically active lives.

The goal is to motivate people to get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day for at least five days a week.

Moderate physical activity such as a brisk walking speeds up the heart rate, with research at East Carolina University underwritten by Be Active finding that each sedentary person Be Active reaches who maintains a regularly active lifestyle will result in $964 a year in reduced direct medical expenses, or savings of nearly $434 million in direct medical costs for the state.

According to Be Active, North Carolina ranks in the bottom third of states for many health measures, and 35th in overall health status.

“People know the issue,” says Gary Gardner, CEO of Be Active North Carolina. “The question is actually getting people to act on changing their behavior.”

The nonprofit, which grew out of the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and operates with an annual budget of about $2 million, receives about two-thirds of its funds from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, and the remainder through revenue from contracts and grants.

Under a grant from the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund, for example, Be Active trained 40,000 teachers in the state in the use of a program developed at East Carolina University to get students up and moving for 30 minutes a day each weekday.

The sole focus of Be Active now is the effort, known as “Movement for Motion,” that it launched in 2005 in partnership with the Institute for Health and Human Services at Appalachian State University, and with a $5 million grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina.

That effort serves 28 counties in Western North Carolina, with the Triangle-based effort launched partnership with a collaboration of health-relation agencies.

And in partnership with the School of Health and Human Performance at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Be Active aims to serve 10 counties in the region.

Directed by Stefanie Milroy, former director of the Martinsville/Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness in Martinsville, Va., Be Active’s Triad Partnership already is teaming with several schools in Rockingham and Guilford counties to put the Movement for Motion initiative into effect.

Gardner says Be Active’s strategy over the next five years will be to develop partnerships in six other regions of the state, likely starting with Charlotte-Mecklenburg and also including Northeastern North Carolina, Southeastern North Carolina, Eastern North Carolina, the Sandhills area, and the far western part of the state.

The strategy in each region will be to find partners that will build local collaborations to put the program into effect, as well as corporations and foundations to fund the partnerships, with Be Active providing local and statewide marketing and advocacy, and providing a model for the local programs, Gardner says.

“The best measurement of our success, the core of our mission,” he says, “is getting sedentary people up and moving.”

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