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Updated 10:00 AM October 25, 2004




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M-CARE and Ann Arbor schools partner for student health

Childhood obesity has gotten so bad that it is being called a national crisis. Rather than take that news lying down, students at Ann Arbor's Thurston Elementary School are getting up and moving.

In partnership with M-CARE, the school has implemented "Thurston on the Move!", an eight-week program that began Sept. 25. It tracks student progress using pedometers, which count the number of steps that students take each day with the goal of increasing the children's daily steps each week.

Students from kindergarten through fifth grade have chosen their own activities, from walking and running to basketball and swimming. For activities that don't involve stepping, they can refer to a chart that converts their activities into steps. A workout buddy, such as a parent, also participates by tracking his or her number of daily steps.

Each student receives a pedometer, a log sheet to track daily steps, instructions, and additional information, such as how they and their families can increase their number of steps. M-CARE is providing the pedometers, log sheets and other materials. The program is based on information from Michigan on the Move, which is part of a national initiative to help reduce the rates of obesity and associated health risks.

"We designed 'Thurston on the Move!' to help children and their families stay active and healthy," says Karen Lang, mother of two Thurston students, program organizer and assistant controller at M-CARE. "We are excited to see the progress the Thurston community can make in eight weeks."

The first week of the program, students did their regular activities in order to learn their baseline of activity. Parents help their children record their daily steps on log sheets, which are turned in to teachers each Friday. Students receive "toe tokens" as a small reward for their weekly participation.

The school office is posting progress reports so students know how far the school is stepping. The program included participation in Walk to School Day Oct. 6 and will culminate with the school's annual Turkey Trot Nov. 19.

"M-CARE hopes to extend this program to other schools in southeastern Michigan in the future," says Tim George, M-CARE director of marketing and strategic services. "In fact, Lakewood Elementary in Ann Arbor is beginning a similar program Oct. 30. We are also excited about a child/adolescent weight management program that will be introduced in early 2005."

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