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 Commissioners 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,” added Casner.
The tracking system 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 (September 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, non-profits, scout troops and many other community and civic organizations, all of which are supportive of the effort to increase physical activity,” noted Commissioner Farrell.
“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,” added Jeanne Casner. “We’re not stopping here and will be setting out 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/walkworks.