The IsPOD Initiative
The "In-school Prevention of Obesity and Disease" (IsPOD) initiative was NCAAHPERD's (North Carolina Alliance for Athletics, Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance) flagship initiative in the fight against childhood obesity in North Carolina. Before the obesity epidemic entered the current public zeitgeist, NCAAHPERD recognized the trend and developed a multi-tiered strategy to combat the issue.
For the first time in more than 100 years, our children's life expectancy is declining due to the increase in being overweight. - New England Journal of Medicine
IsPOD was a 4-year Kate B. Reynolds (KBR) grant-funded program that began in fall 2008 and end on August 31, 2012. The program was designed to improve the health and fitness of North Carolina Kindergarten to 8th grade students. IsPOD was an expansion of a program funded by the North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund (HWTF) from fall 2006 to spring 2008. The original HWTF program addressed health disparities in seven targeted North Carolina (NC) counties from seven educational regions. NCAAHPERD provided specialized physical education training in the SPARK (Sports, Play and Active Recreation for Kids) curriculum to students in grades 3 through 8 in these seven targeted counties over the 2-year grant period. SPARK is a research-based physical education program, designed to increase moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA), improve fitness levels and sport skills, and enhance the enjoyment of physical education among students.
North Carolina has the 11th highest childhood obesity rate in the nation. Nearly one out of three (32%) of children ages 10-17 are overweight or obese. - North Carolina Health Assesment and Monitoring Program
In fall 2008, KBR committed over three million dollars to the state-wide implementation of this project over the next four years, with the objective of making SPARK curriculum and training available to all K-8 elementary schools in all 115 NC counties. In addition, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation awarded a $139,500 grant to expand the HWTF initiative in the original 7 counties to include the K-2 SPARK curricula, provide the latest 3-8 SPARK manuals, and begin the development of the train the trainer program. The SPARK curriculum and training was provided incrementally to physical education teachers in the state. Training was offered at one or more of three levels: Grades K-2, 3-5, and 6-8. Training included 8 hours of instruction as well as two complete curriculum manuals. Software, manuals, and training for the FITNESSGRAM software, a program to measure fitness levels, such as BMI, strength, endurance, and flexibility, was also provided during the training. In addition to providing training to current NC K-8 physical education teachers, the NCAAHPERD IsPOD staff provided SPARK training to faculty at NC colleges and universities with physical education degree programs. Faculty from these NC colleges and universities wnet on to train future physical education teachers (i.e., students majoring in physical education) in the SPARK curriculum, thus creating a sustainable pool of physical education teachers with training in the SPARK curriculum.
Understanding Our Purpose
Obesity is the defining disease of our generation. Recently, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) testified to Congress that rapid increases in obesity and the unrelenting high rates of physical inactivity, type II diabetes, and low fruit/vegetable consumption no longer permit the nation to ignore these risk factors as serious public health problems.
The percentage of children (ages 5-10) getting 5+ servings of fruits and vegetables (including 100% fruit juice) per day has declined by 8% from 2005 with 58% currently getting the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetables. - North Carolina Assessment and Monitoring Program
North Carolina has the 11th highest rate of overweight and obese youth; more than one in every three children in North Carolina is overweight. Over half of North Carolina's children are physically inactive and therefore, 600 times more likely to develop hear disease as adults. Comparisons show that it is the same student groups that are most at risk for childhood diabetes, other childhood health issues, and cardiovascular diseases, which are not performing on academic tests (Ballard, Howard-Vital, 2005). These overweight or obese children are also absent from school significantly more than normal-weight children. Overweight children have a 70% chance of being overweight as adults facing higher risks for many diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, strok, and several types of cancers.
The North Carolina Health and Wellness Trust Fund provided a grant to help launch the IsPOD program and an additional grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation allowed us to expand IsPOD throughout more districts within the state. With substantial funding from the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, every K-8 school was given the opportunity to participate in IsPOD during the grant period from 2008 to 2012.