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Common [Online] Ground Leader Ingrid Morris describes the website NC School Health Connection (NCSHC) as Switzerland for the Tar Heel State’s childhood obesity advocacy community.
As Morris explains, there are thousands of individuals, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and others working to support childhood obesity prevention programs in North Carolina public schools. But connecting the right people to effect positive change can be a challenge.
Sometimes, groups even find themselves competing against one another when they share an end goal. 
Simply put, everybody needs a neutral place to come together.

So in 2010, Morris and her colleagues at NC Prevention Partners partnered with NC Healthy Schools to launch NCSHC, a new online common ground where all stakeholders can come together to work on reducing childhood obesity.

It’s a highly collaborative effort. Organizations post their grant programs to the website, which schools can find and apply for. There’s also a list of programs that offer support in this field. Schools can also add themselves to a special map that allows potential local and regional partners to locate them.

“There are so many of us that do this work,” Morris says. “Ultimately, we are all trying to do the same thing.”

NCSHC has proven successful because it is an independent tool that North Carolinians working on childhood obesity can use without feeling like they are stepping on anybody’s toes, Morris says. “There’s no reason for our agencies to be tripping over each other,” she says.

The website also is supported by an advisory board made up of an eclectic mix of stakeholders that meets by teleconference each month to guide the NCSHC’s priorities.  There’s also a yearly gathering to help bring people across the state together in person.
Meanwhile, the website’s map helps show where there are gaps in childhood obesity prevention programs, giving advocates an idea which areas of the state they should target. Rural areas tend to lack behind suburban areas and cities, Morris notes.
“Schools have a lot of competing priorities,” she says, adding wellness and obesity programs don’t often on the list. “But I’ve also found that there are people in each community who are passionate about wellness. It’s just a matter of finding them, and then empowering them.”