New Initiative Aims to Fight Childhood Obesity and Improve Academics
Gear Up & Go!, a new initiative by the Snohomish Health Leadership Coalition aimed at combating childhood obesity, launched today at Stocker Farms. Gear Up & Go! aims to increase physical activity among the county’s youth to improve academic performance and create lifelong healthy habits that extend into adulthood.
Nearly 7,000 fifth-graders and 900 faculty and staff in Snohomish County are partaking in the program which utilizes a new technology that converts activity into digital points that can be tracked and redeemed in friendly competitions.
Gary Cohn is chair of the Coalition’s youth activity initiative and Superintendent of Everett Public Schools. He points out that, data from the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey clearly demonstrates that there is a steep drop in activity in children after the sixth grade. By targeting our efforts at fifth graders, believe we can foster life-long habits that promote wellbeing and go far in the fight against obesity.”
The Coalition has secured many important partners to help students get moving, including:
· Sqord is an exciting hardware and software that makes healthy, active play more fun for kids by turning activity into rewards and friendly social competition.
· YMCA of Snohomish County is providing each participating student with a free school-year membership, as well as unique programming for Gear Up & Go! and passes for their families.
In addition to being able to join in all YMCA activities, participating students will receive their own Sqord PowerPod – a durable wristband that converts student’s activity into points.
“Gear up & Go! is an innovative way to encourage Snohomish county’s children to be healthy and active,” said Congresswoman Suzan DelBene (WA-01), who was on hand at Stocker Farms to help launch the initiative. “I’m excited to see how the program’s use of technology will spur greater engagement among the students as they track their progress and compare how they are doing with their fellow classmates from across the county – making it fun and social for the participating children.”
The Coalition worked with school superintendents, teachers, health and education professionals to create the initiative. More than 200 students in six classrooms across three school districts participated in a pilot program in Spring 2013. The results were overwhelmingly positive. The average activity per user was almost 60,000 points (40,000 points is defined as a healthy day), 52 percent of students uploaded data at least every three days, and they were social online.
“Gear Up & Go! is an exciting opportunity for our students and demonstrates the innovative ideas that abound in our community ,” said John Lovick, Snohomish County Executive. “A tremendous deal of praise goes to the teachers, students and Coalition partners who helped get Gear Up & Go! running. This initiative is coming alive thanks in large part to their enthusiasm and support. This is great news for the county.”
The Coalition has also partnered with Snohomish Health District, which is working with the Initiative to help define and track a series of measurable objectives. Throughout the year, participating students will have the opportunity to participate in voluntary surveys to help gauge results.
“This program doesn’t just reward the jocks of each classroom; it rewards all movement, be that taking a walk or washing the dishes. We’re encouraging healthy habits and education, and we’re doing it in a fun and engaging way,” said Carol Andrews, vice president of the Everett Public School Board. “Studies show that increased activity among kids leads to stronger academic performance. The key is making it fun and challenging, and Gear Up & Go! does just that.”
This initiative will result in the creation of the nation’s first online real-time heat map of human activity. This information, in partnership with the Snohomish County Health District, will enable the Coalition to gain and rapidly share insights into what influences movement in order to create recommendations to sustain positive impacts in 2014 and beyond.
Additionally, the initiative is providing a variety of opportunities for participating teachers and faculty to come together to share their learnings. Collaboration vehicles include a LinkedIn page, monthly e-newsletter, and innovation salons that will occur in the Spring.
At the event at Stocker Farms, participating students, their parents and members of the community had the opportunity to try out the Sqord technology first-hand and try to earn points through a variety of activities including jump rope, hula hoops, and a dance party.
More information can be found at http://www.GearUpandGo.org or http://www.SnoCoHealth.org.