MCPS schools compete for a $5,000 education grant

Nov. 17, 2005, midnight | By Lois Bangiolo | 18 years, 8 months ago

MCPS and Kaiser Permanente form a partnership to improve health

During the month of October, teachers and staff of MCPS took steps become more active - literally. Kaiser Permanente teamed up with MCPS to create "Walk for Your Life," a program that offers a $5,000 education grant to the school that has the most steps per participant in the month of October. Results are pending.

Blair is one of the approximately 150 MCPS schools participating in the program and has about 200 staff members signed up, including teachers, administration and security. Kaiser Permanente issued a package to each participant with a "Get Moving Guide" that included tips and outdoor locations for walking, a chart to record their steps and a pedometer to count their steps. At the end of the month, the guides were returned to Susan Soule, the Blair organizer for the program, who tallied the steps and submitted the results to Kaiser Permanente.

Kaiser and MCPS created this program to foster healthy habits throughout the workforce. "It was something to get people focused on heath and wellness," said Denise Brennan, MCPS organizer at the Employee and Retirement Service Center.

There has been a very positive response, according to Lisa Grimaudo, who initiated the program at Kaiser Permanente. There were 6,845 packets requested and sent out, much higher than Kaiser Permanente's estimated total of 1,500 to 2,000 participants.

This program is an offshoot of Kaiser's current 10,000 step program for their healthcare members. For $12, members are enrolled and receive the same pedometer, guide and chart.

Grimaudo said she brought it to MCPS because she wanted to close any distance between the insurance provider and those who are insured. "I wanted the actual employees to be touched by Kaiser. I wanted a program where [MCPS employees] would know what Kaiser represents: heath and wellness," said Grimaudo. Although November is the open enrollment month for MCPS employees when employees can choose to change their health insurance, that was not Kaiser's only motivation, according to Grimaudo. "It's fall, it's a good time to be outdoors," Grimaudo noted. "October [is] an ideal time. Things have settled down from the start of the school year."

One step at a time

With the pedometer logging every step they take, many teachers have found they are more aware of the walking they do. It has been a wake up call to those living sedentary lifestyles. "Some have been like 'wow, I didn't realize I wasn't walking enough,'" Soule said. Kaiser recommended a daily goal of 10,000 steps for all participants, but according to Soule, many were only logging two to five thousand steps a day.

Teachers discovered that even small changes in their habits can make them more active. English teacher Lucas Henry found himself walking to Santucci's and back with his friends when they went to buy lunch even though he had already brought in lunch for himself.

Computer science teacher Mary Ann Dvorsky uses the pedometer as encouragement to continue a walking program she started three weeks prior to the beginning of the program. Arriving at six in the morning, she and Olszewski walk the track before returning to the school building to teach.

Disappearing steps

The pedometers have helped increase activity for Blair teachers, but the pedometers lack of accuracy in counting steps has left many teachers frustrated and annoyed. Some teachers have reported problems with the pedometers resetting themselves, erasing all the steps counted during the day. "It's very frustrating when however many thousands of steps accumulated during the day would just disappear." Henry said. "I was into it, but it just seems pointless if it doesn't accumulate what I've done."

According to Grimaudo, this pedometer's malfunction was due to a manufacturer's error. Kaiser Permanente replaced pedometers at no charge for teachers who had problems.

Despite the pedometer problems, hopes that the increased awareness of walking they cause will promote healthier habits that will last after the program is completed. "That's why we did it for a month. Typically it takes 21 days for people to change a habit - to make walking part of their lifestyle," Grimaudo said.

Lois Bangiolo. Lois Bangiolo was born on March 14, pi day, an auspicious date as she is now in the math-science magnet. In addition to writing for Silver Chips Online she runs track and is secretary of the MBHS Key Club. More »

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