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An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of care

Grades aren’t generally considered to be matters of life and death. But there are some report cards that can have grave implications for millions of us.

When it comes to North Carolina’s health grades, let’s just say there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Various 2020 health report cards show several areas where improvement is crucial.

Children’s health

The North Carolina Institute of Medicine puts out an annual report card for children’s health (PDF). Throughout 2020 and into 2021, the dire impact of COVID-19 on North Carolina’s children has become clear.

COVID-19 has made it harder for our state’s families to find their footing. Loss of income, racial inequities and economic disparities were huge barriers to health.

About four out of 10 children in North Carolina live in poor or low-income neighborhoods. Nine percent of kids live in high-poverty areas. This means their families likely have a much harder time finding a safe place to live, putting nutritious food on the table, and accessing safe places to play and exercise.

North Carolina’s children also struggle with their mental health at astounding rates. Almost 10% of high school students attempted suicide in the past year. Major depressive episodes are common.


For a state with an extensive tobacco history, it’s no surprise that tobacco remains the leading cause of preventable death.

According to the American Lung Association’s annual report, North Carolina earned a failing grade in every of tobacco prevention and cessation. The tobacco use rate among high school students is almost 29%, and more than 14,000 deaths could be attributed to smoking this year.

We spend $3.81 billion every year on tobacco-related health care in North Carolina. That money isn’t imaginary, it’s real money that we’re all paying.

Looking to stop smoking? Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina members have access to resources. QuitlineNC offers free, 24/7 support to quit for most Blue Cross NC members. If you’re not sure if your plan covers QuitlineNC, call the number on the back of your insurance card.

Call 844-8NCQuit (844-862-7848) any time, or register online at Get telephone, online and/or text help to quit. Your lungs start healing very quickly after you quit smoking.


Based on the last available data, only 12.3% of adults in North Carolina eat the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Unfortunately, that’s nowhere near enough to pull the other 87.7% of us upward on the grading curve. On the other hand, our nutrition has hit rock bottom, so there’s nowhere to go but up.

BCBSNC customers can use our Blue Connect member dashboard to can find a range of tools to help improve nutritional and overall health.

The state’s Nutrition Services Branch provides additional resources about sound nutrition habits for infants, children and women in their child-bearing years. Eat Smart, Move More NC is another great source of information on nutrition and wellness for all North Carolinians.


The CDC tells us that anywhere from 30 to 35% of adults in North Carolina self-report as obese. We rank 19th on obesity compared to other U.S. states.

Both on a state and national level, obesity has economic costs. The estimated annual health care costs of obesity-related illnesses comes in at more than $190 billion nationwide. This number accounts for over 20% of annual medical costs in the United States.

More importantly, obesity can have an enormous cost on overall health and quality of life.

We’re committed to helping our customers meet their fitness goals. If you haven’t already, visit our Blue Connect dashboard to find out how our customers can get discounts for healthy products and services like gym memberships.

If you’re not a BCBSNC customer, there are several agencies offering free online information about how to achieve and maintain a healthy weight:

  • Obesity Action Coalition
  • Obesity Help
  • UNC-Chapel Hill Health Sciences Library’s NC Health Info
  • North Carolina Alliance of YMCAs
  • The Support Center-NC

These poor marks should concern each of us individually, but there are also serious consequences for us collectively. When the unhealthy outnumber the healthy, health care costs rise for everyone. We are truly all in this together. Take advantage of the health and wellness offerings available to you. With a little effort, we’ll see a report card we can truly be proud of.

Chris Privett

Chris Privett

Communications Specialist

Chris is a communications specialist at Blue Cross NC, assisting the company’s leaders with speeches and presentations. He has a particular interest in sharing stories about BCBSNC’s role as a committed partner in North Carolina’s communities. His communications career began in 1990 in television news, later transitioning to public relations roles in nonprofits.

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