COLUMBIA -- While South Carolina's attempts to combat rising obesity have dropped from little to even less during the recession, one insurance company is investing an $800,000 grant to try to make a difference in one county.
The BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation will pay for a community-wide approach over the next three years aimed at reducing the weight problem in the rural Colleton Country where nearly 3 out of 4 are estimated to be overweight or obese. The grant represents one of the single-largest investments to address obesity in South Carolina.
Eat Smart Move More Colleton County will lead the efforts in the schools, the community, churches and businesses, Melissa Buckner, the organization's local director, said. The goal is to create a model for communities throughout the state, she said.
The first project started in August with childhood health training for Colleton County educators. Other plans include trying to create safe streets where people can walk and bike and purchasing educational material and equipment to promote healthy lifestyles.
Amy Splittgerber, executive director of the state's Eat Smart Move More Coalition, said obesity is a health crisis that the state needs to face head-on.
"Obesity is the No. 1 health threat facing our children today," she said. "We must intentionally act to reverse this epidemic with solutions that change the current environment that reinforces poor nutrition (and) lack of physical activity.
"All of us have a role to play -- national, state and local governments, school districts, communities, work sites, health care, churches, families and individuals."
Harvey Galloway, executive director of the state BlueCross Blue Shield Foundation, said the foundation had been looking for a comprehensive, sustainable effort to fight obesity and that the proposal from Eat Smart Move More was the right approach.
"This is a not a one-shot deal," he said. "It's long term and it's something we believe will have an impact on future generations."