APHA’s 1 Billion Steps Challenge is well underway encouraging physical activity in communities across the country. Today we spotlight two teams who’ve laced up their walking shoes and joined the challenge in the lead up to National Public Health Week in April. Joan Fleener with Dent County Health Department in Missouri and Julie Basler with Platt College School of Nursing in Aurora, Colorado, share their progress and reveal how their teams are leveraging the challenge to promote health in their communities.

Dent County Health Department

Dent County Health Center

Courtesy Dent County Health Center

In November 2016, we saw on our Missouri Public Health Association website a mention about the 1 Billion Steps Challenge. We are a town of just under 5,000 people with a total of 15,000 patrons in our county. Our staff had been talking about ways we could involve and give back to our community. We also wanted to do something to promote better health in our community. We decided that the walking challenge might be just the type of thing we had been looking for.

We purchased 500 pedometers to hand out at our town’s Christmas parade in December. We included information about the upcoming challenge and encouraged people to participate. In early January we visited approximately 15 businesses, which included our hospital, courthouse, banks and schools. We handed out registration sheets and additional pedometers. By Jan. 7, we had 28 teams and 25 individuals signed up for a total of 220 people. Needless to say, we were very excited and a bit nervous since this was our first attempt at anything like this.

We chose to record our steps on a weekly basis running from Friday to Thursday and asked that people call, text or fax their step count to us every Friday. At the end of week four, we had three teams and three individuals who had increased their steps each week. We made small fruit baskets and delivered them to these folks in recognition of their hard work. We post weekly step counts on our sign on the side of our building and have a wall and bulletin board in our waiting room devoted to tracking steps and promoting our event.

We have had several people tell us that this has motivated them to walk more and to be more aware of purposing to walk a certain amount every day. The competition between businesses has been fun to watch and has certainly inspired many to walk more.

We are going to conclude this event in April with a “Walk, Waddle or Run” 5K. We have seen positive results and a positive impact in our community. We are looking forward to our next health-inspired event.

Platt College School of Nursing

Platt College School of Nursing

Courtesy Platt College School of Nursing

As a college dedicated solely to baccalaureate nursing, Platt College in Aurora, Colorado, is thrilled to embrace APHA’s Billion Steps Challenge. Under the direction of Academic Student Success Coordinator Darla Dolph, college employees and students have been motivated to walk daily in connection with good heart health and mental clarity in the classroom. Steps are tracked, and employees with the most steps have bragging rights for the week. More importantly, according to Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Julie Basler, also a steps participant, the program has “reminded all of us about the importance of taking a few moments every day to promote positive self-health. Often in the field of nursing in taking care of others, it’s easy to forget for the care giver to take care of him or herself. The Billion Steps Challenge serves as a reminder that in order to promote good health in our communities, we, ourselves, need to maintain good health and active movement.”

Because Colorado boasts 28 days of sunshine on average every month, the challenge has helped people from all college departments and students in the beginning of the program to nearing graduation the opportunity to build friendly, personal relationships. The walking challenge has also encouraged employees to connect with students and remind them of their value as a student in the college.

On designated “walk days” students and employees wear visible maroon shirts with the college logo and wave to others, as the walk allows us to pass by other local businesses and patrons. It’s an outward reminder of our commitment to serve our community and advocate for good health. After walks, Darla serves fresh fruit, water and healthy granola as participants discuss meeting their step goals and remaining accountable to themselves and to each other.

There is still time to join APHA’s 1 Billion Steps Challenge. Sign up as a team or join a team. The challenge runs through April 9, the end of National Public Health Week. Share your progress using the #1BillionSteps hashtag.