Phil Ford teams up with UNC Children’s to take a shot at stifling childhood obesity

Former UNC men’s basketball star’s foundation pledges commitment to help advance childhood obesity research within the Department of Pediatrics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Media contact: Danielle M. Bates, 919.843.9714 (office); 949.842.0680 (mobile)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Men’s basketball legend, Phil Ford, has a long and illustrious history with his alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and today added another chapter to the storybook. The 1978 NCAA national player of the year announced that his personal foundation, the Phil Ford Foundation, will partner N.C. Children’s Hospital and the UNC Department of Pediatrics to advance obesity prevention and treatment in children and adolescents through clinical research at UNC.

The Childhood Obesity Epidemic

The percentage of overweight and obese children and adolescents in the United States is alarming, leaving a high percentage of youth prone to developing chronic diseases like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease.

Obesity now affects about 17 percent of U.S. children and adolescents (or 12.5 million from ages 9 to 19)—triple the obesity rate from just one generation ago! North Carolina is no exception. North Carolina has the 5th highest childhood obesity rate in the nation, with nearly one out of three (33 percent) children ages 10-17 in North Carolina considered overweight or obese.

“Childhood overweight and obesity is putting today’s youth on a trajectory to becoming the first generation to live shorter, less healthy lives than their parents,” said Eliana Perrin, MD, MPH, a leading authority in the prevention of obesity in children, who conducts her research out of the UNC Department of Pediatrics.

Finding Solutions through Clinical Research

Ford announced plans to raise money that will provide a professorship, endowment funds and space to strengthen and secure a long-term focus on childhood obesity, benefiting children in North Carolina and throughout the country. Longer term, the Foundation aims to help establish a research center for obesity prevention at UNC.

Led by Dr. Eliana Perrin, UNC's work in this field focuses on factors that impact a family's ability to help their children maintain healthy lifestyles. Dr. Perrin and her team have investigated the benefits of body mass index (BMI) screening, barriers to physicians’ use of appropriate methods for obesity prevention and treatment, and the relationship between culture and obesity. They manage several grants, currently investigating social factors throughout North Carolina that impact obesogenic culture.

“I can’t tell you the excitement I felt when Phil Ford walked into my office and shared his vision to create a foundation that would contribute to research on childhood obesity,” said Perrin during the press conference. “Together with Phil and his foundation, I look forward to carrying out initiatives that will change lives of children. Through the support of the foundation and others who believe in fighting this fight for better health, we will become national leader in obesity prevention and treatment research.”

Perrin went on to outline five goals in the fight against childhood obesity:

  1. To “immunize” children against toxic environments.
  2. To enhance youth participation in various types of athletics and other activities to promote lifelong healthy lifestyles and behaviors.
  3. To facilitate appropriate counseling to children and their families by healthcare professionals to prevent and treat childhood obesity over the life course.
  4. To unpack the relationship between stigma and other cultural factors and childhood obesity in order to shape national policy and determine most appropriate and culturally sensitive obesity treatments and prevent bullying without prompting unhealthy restriction of food.
  5. To determine outcomes of childhood obesity (health, social, and economic effects of childhood obesity as well as of childhood dietary and activity patterns) in order to prevent or overcome them and reduce obesity’s effect on its most vulnerable children.

“Through our work with the Phil Ford Foundation, we hope to put all of the pieces in place for a center for obesity research and prevention, accelerating the positive change we’ve seen through Dr. Perrin’s research,” said Wesley Burks, MD, chief physician of N.C. Children’s Hospital. “The groundwork is being laid for this. Thanks to the generous support of a retired school teacher from Durham, we’ve already received a commitment of $1.4 million through a planned gift to establish the Phil Ford Foundation Distinguished Professorship of Pediatrics to focus in this very important field.”

The announcement was made at a press conference held this morning at the ACC Men’s Basketball Tournament at the Greensboro Coliseum. The Phil Ford Foundation plans to fundraise through a variety of initiatives, including a golf tournament and gala scheduled for August 8-9, 2014.

For more information on the partnership between UNC Children’s and the Phil Ford Foundation, please contact Crystal Miller at (919) 843-3948.

Additional Resources

Childhood Obesity Fact Sheet

About N.C. Children's Hospital and the Phil Ford Foundation