Project promotes fitness in schools

Published 5:00 am Thursday, July 6, 2006

Project Fit America, a program that encourages physical fitness,wise choices and a healthy lifestyle, will be implemented inseveral local schools beginning in August.

King’s Daughters Medical Center partnered with Blue Cross BlueShield of Miss. to acquire a $93,500 grant to bring Project FitAmerica equipment and its curriculum into four local schools.

“I found out about Project Fit in January of 2005 and we beganto explore ways that the hospital could partner with Project Fit tobenefit the school systems,” said King’s Daughters Medical CenterChief Development Officer Johnny Rainer.

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Wesson Attendance Center, Lipsey Middle School, BrookhavenElementary and Brookhaven Academy were chosen to participate in atwo-year pilot program that will allow students to participate inphysical fitness activities through a curriculum-based program.

“We looked at schools that had a physical education program andactive parent teacher organization group and through a process ofrequesting proposals and reviewing, we picked out four schools atthis time,” Rainer said.

Project Fit America began in 1990 as a national nonprofitorganization with the goals of promoting positive self-esteem,smoking intervention and fitness as fun.

The program partners with hospitals and other organizations tosupply exercise equipment, classroom curriculum and teachertraining, Rainer said.

The project requires preliminary assessments of the students’fitness levels at the beginning of the program and evaluations ofthose levels will be made again after two years as part of theoverall goals of the program.

“The goal is to do some specific measurements on where the kidsare on some of the basic skills, running, lifting and jumping,”Rainer said. “So we are going to do some pre- and post-tests on thekids involved in Project Fit.”

Parents will also be encouraged to participate in the programand promote healthy living as a model for their children.

“Project Fit will send trainers to do two-day workshops for theteachers, coaches and parents on how to successfully implement thecurriculum,” Rainer said.

The physical education period will be utilized to promoteProject Fit America as well as after school programing.

“Our hope is that through basic movement and activity that somekids will be inspired to include some of that in their lifestyle asthey grow and become adults,” Rainer said.

“I think from a medical and even human perspective thatincidents of obesity, hypertension and diabetes in Mississippi isvery high. We lead the nation in most of those categories and partof what we do as health care providers needs to have a preventativeelement where we can begin to reverse some of those trends,” Rainersaid.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi provided the $93,500 grantand King’s Daughters Medical Center will work to implement andevaluate the Project Fit America program.

“Blue Cross Blue Shield stands ready to fund additional projectssuch as this throughout the state if we can demonstrate thepositive outcomes that we anticipate,” Raider said.