RES­I­DENTS WALK ONE BIL­LION STEPS

WalkWorks Ch­esCo! pro­gram chal­lenges res­i­dents to live healthy life­styles

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - Staff Re­port

WEST CH­ESTER » The Ch­ester County Com­mis­sion­ers and Health Depart­ment threw down the gaunt­let and Ch­ester County res­i­dents “stepped up” to the chal­lenge – walk­ing one bil­lion steps be­fore the end of 2017.

In April of this year, dur­ing Na­tional Pub­lic Health Week, Ch­ester County launched WalkWorks Ch­esCo!, the chal­lenge to walk one bil­lion steps. County res­i­dents em­braced the chal­lenge and recorded more than a bil­lion steps in just six months – three months ear­lier than the chal­lenge dead­line.

WalkWorks Ch­esCo! is a pro­gram that pro­motes, ed­u­cates and em­pow­ers county res­i­dents to adopt a health­ier life­style one step at a time by cre­at­ing more places for walk­ing, sup­port­ing and pro­mot­ing walk­ing groups, co­or­di­nat­ing walk­ing chal­lenges – and im­por­tantly – cre­at­ing a web­site that al­lows every­one to track and tally their steps to­wards the one bil­lion goal.

The one bil­lion step goal was of­fi­cially sur­passed last week, and the county cel­e­brated at the com­mis­sion­ers’ pub­lic sun­shine meet­ing. Join­ing the county com­mis-

sion­ers and Health Depart­ment of­fi­cials were com­mu­nity or­ga­ni­za­tions and part­ners who con­trib­uted en­thu­si­as­ti­cally to the chal­lenge, in­clud­ing staff and stu­dents from North Coven­try El­e­men­tary School and a rep­re­sen­ta­tive from Ac­ti­vate Phoenixville Area.

“The one bil­lion steps were ac­cu­mu­lated in a num­ber of ways to en­sure we were meet­ing the ob­jec­tives we set prior to the launch,” said Jeanne Cas­ner, di­rec­tor of the Ch­ester County Health Depart­ment. “From nearly 80 walk­ing chal­lenges ini­ti­ated be­tween com­mu­ni­ties like Coatesville and Phoenixville and be­tween busi­nesses and work en­vi­ron­ments, to tremen­dous school sup­port, se­nior cen­ter sup­port and health cen­ter sup­port, the steps kept rolling in.

“And within the first six months, we reg­is­tered more than 2,800 peo­ple who tracked their steps on our WalkWorks Ch­esCo! web­site, from ev­ery area of the county, and rang­ing in age from kin­der­garten to over 60,” Cas­ner added.

The track­ing sys­tem on the WalkWorks Ch­esCo! web­site – www.chsco.org/ walkworks - syncs with most de­vices and mo­bile apps that al­ready track steps and it also al­lows users to con­vert other phys­i­cal ex­er­cise into steps to be man­u­ally added.

Chris Mitchell, health and phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion teacher at North Coven­try El­e­men­tary School was one of the many ed­u­ca­tors who took up the WalkWorks Ch­esCo! chal­lenge by de­vel­op­ing a pro­gram for stu­dents, teach­ers and staff to walk many steps in the week lead­ing up to Ch­ester County Walks Day on Sept. 23. With the sup­port of school prin­ci­pal Dr. Su­san Lloyd, Chris led a team and set a school – and com­mu­nity – goal of walk­ing 10 mil­lion steps in just one week.

“I started do­ing some quick math and worked out that with the num­bers we had, if we all walked just 20 min­utes a day for five days, we could po­ten­tially achieve 10 mil­lion steps in one week,” said Mitchell.

By the end of the week, North Coven­try El­e­men­tary School stu­dents, staff, par­ents, friends and many com­mu­nity first re­spon­ders had sur­passed the orig­i­nal goal, walk­ing more than 14 mil­lion steps. In to­tal, Ch­ester County schools walked 25 mil­lion steps in the week lead­ing up to Ch­ester County Walks Day.

The WalkWorks Ch­esCo! pro­gram is Ch­ester County’s re­sponse to the na­tional Health­i­est Cities and Coun­ties Chal­lenge, a two-year com­pe­ti­tion that em­pow­ers U.S. cities and coun­ties to cre­ate a pos­i­tive health im­pact. Ch­ester County Com­mis­sioner Ter­ence Far­rell first be­came aware of the Health­i­est Cities and Coun­ties Chal­lenge in 2016 and tasked county staff to ap­ply. The county was se­lected out of 400 ap­pli­ca­tions as one of 50 mem­bers of the na­tional HealthyCom­mu­nity50, and re­ceived $10,000 in com­mu­nity seed funds to es­tab­lish WalkWorks Ch­esCo!

“The beauty of WalkWorks Ch­esCo! is that it en­cour­ages part­ner­ships be­tween rec­og­nized health or­ga­ni­za­tions, cham­bers of com­merce, physi­cians, schools, se­nior cen­ters, non­prof­its, scout troops and many other com­mu­nity and civic or­ga­ni­za­tions, all of which are sup­port­ive of the ef­fort to in­crease phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity,” Far­rell said.

“Walk­ing is the most sim­ple and in­ex­pen­sive form of ex­er­cise and can hap­pen in towns, on trails, in greenspace ar­eas, and even in the home,” said Com­mis­sion­ers’ Chair Michelle Kich­line.

Com­mis­sioner Kathi Coz­zone added, “The one bil­lion step level is im­pres­sive, and I en­cour­age those who are al­ready signed up for WalkWorks Ch­esCo! to make a point of sign­ing up at least five or six mem­bers of their fam­ily and friends, so that we can be­gin our 2018 chal­lenge with an even big­ger base for track­ing steps.”

Staff in the Ch­ester County Health Depart­ment will be assessing the suc­cess of WalkWorks Ch­esCo!’s first one bil­lion steps and be­tween now and De­cem­ber will be re­view­ing the meth­ods for pro­mot­ing more steps.

“Hav­ing achieved one bil­lion steps in just six months is fan­tas­tic, but our Healthy Cities & Coun­ties Chal­lenge is a two year pro­gram,” Cas­ner said. “We’re not stop­ping here and will be set­ting our sights very high for our step goal for the whole of 2018. Watch this space!”

If judged the most suc­cess­ful Health­i­est Cities and Coun­ties Chal­lenge pro­gram, Ch­ester County will re­ceive $500,000 which will be used to fur­ther en­hance health pro­grams for all county res­i­dents. The Health­i­est Cities and Coun­ties Chal­lenge is a part­ner­ship es­tab­lished be­tween the Aetna Foun­da­tion, the Amer­i­can Pub­lic Health As­so­ci­a­tion and the Na­tional As­so­ci­a­tion of Coun­ties.

More in­for­ma­tion about the WalkWorks Ch­esCo! pro­gram and how to regis­ter can be found at www.ch­esco.org/

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

Ch­ester County Com­mis­sion­ers Ter­ence Far­rell, Michelle Kich­line and Kathi Coz­zone, cen­ter front, are joined by county health depart­ment staff and com­mu­nity part­ners to cel­e­brate walk­ing one bil­lion steps in just six months.

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