In 2004, I launched the Count Your Steps program as a way to fight the growing menace of childhood obesity. With the assistance of my Health Division, generous corporate sponsors, and school support, over 200,000 third and fourth grade students have participated in Count Your Steps walking over 18 billion steps since the program’s inception 10 years ago.
There continues to be evidence to suggest that the generation of children we’re raising in America today may be the first generation in our history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. This alarming statistic directly relates to the growing national epidemic: childhood obesity.
After 10 years, it is time to expand and transition Count Your Steps into its next phase. I am excited to transform Count Your Steps by being the first local government in Michigan to join schools across the country in implementing the largest in-school wellness program Fuel Up To Play 60 (FUTP60) in Oakland County public, private and charter elementary schools.
Fuel Up To Play 60 (www.fueluptoplay60.com
) is a program founded by the National Dairy Council and National Football League (NFL), in collaboration with USDA. From coast to coast, FUTP60 empowers students to take charge in making small, everyday changes at school and in their communities. Students can win rewards, like an NFL player visit or Super Bowl tickets, for choosing nutritious foods and getting active for at least 60 minutes every day. They can track their own progress using motivating tools such as an interactive online tracker and personalized webpage.
Participating schools are eligible for up to $4,000 each year to help implement one of FUTP60’s health strategies. FUTP60 supports nationally recommended standards for health and physical education/physical activity and also helps schools integrate healthy activities into existing curriculums and lesson plans. Even teachers who are program advisors are eligible for rewards and continuing education opportunities.
What excites me the most about this program is it energizes youth to take action for their health similar to Count Your Steps. Activities are youth led and are school tested. The program is easily customizable and non-prescriptive- you choose what works for your school and to which degree you are involved. Most importantly, all FUTP60 strategies are grounded in research as evidence-based or best practices that compliment an academics-focused environment and are fully supported by organizations such as Action for Healthy Kids, American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Dietetic Association, National Medical Association and School Nutrition Association.
In the coming months and in early 2014, Oakland County Health Division and a team of community partners will begin targeting some 92,955 elementary school students in K-5th grade in our new efforts. Our experts will provide schools with hands-on technical assistance, training and one-on-one support to start or expand existing FUTP60 efforts.
The success of our fight against childhood obesity in Oakland County will ultimately depend on 100% involvement and commitment from elementary school principals, teachers, students, and parents. Now is the time to expand our fight to make children healthier.
For more information or questions, please contact Trisha Zizumbo, Public Health Educator, Oakland County Health Division, at 248-452-9174 or email@example.com.
L. Brooks Patterson
Oakland County Executive