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School staff get fit

Knox County Schools Co-ordinated School Health Office re-cently introduced a new staff health program in an effort to reduce health related absences in its staff and create a more positive learning environment for its students.

Aneisa McDonald, KCS Coordi-nated School Health specialist, said, “Each county [in Tennessee] has to coordinate school health and one of the components is staff wellness.

“The centerpiece of the staff wellness program is eWellness, an Internet-based eight-week program designed to encourage healthy eating and regular exercise,” she added.

EWellness, created by The University of Tennessee professor Betty Greer, is made available to Knox County School employees through a partnership with the Knox County Extension Office.

The program is completely voluntary, but McDonald said response has been good.

“We had two opening sessions and we had 200 people to attend on [Tuesday,] Jan. 8, and 200 people to attend on [Thursday,] Jan. 10, so we had quite a bit of response. And many people who did not attend the session are still participating,” she added.

EWellness is an attempt to create a healthy lifestyle for employees by encouraging them to replace old, unhealthy habits with newer, healthier ones.

“Habits developed in eWellness prevent or control weight and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure,” McDonald said.

“Participants are striving to get a lifestyle award, so they accumulate points when they do these healthy behaviors. The behaviors are eating fruits, eating vegetables, drinking unsweetened beverages and [participating] in physical activity,” she added.

Points are calculated by using an on-line diary.

McDonald said she believes one of the key components for success is the ‘buddy-system.”

Employees pair up in teams of five and compete against other teams to accumulate the most points.

“Our office has worked with some local vendors to provide incentives to the [teams]. We have individual activity awards, we have a biggest loser award and just several different awards that are available to people,” McDonald said.

“At the end of March we will have a wrap-up session and we will come together and hand out the awards,” she added.

Employees also can participate on what are called non-competing teams, which are made up of more or less than five members.

The wrap-up in March will not be the end of the program.

“We will not have time to start another eight-week program before school gets out, but we will begin again in the fall,” McDonald said.

Employees are encouraged to keep up their new healthy life-style on their own over the summer break through the use of a hard-copy diary in which they can total the points gained through healthy habits, though they will not be used for competition.

McDonald said personal wellness is not the only goal of the program. Some participants have become role models for their students.

“We have heard a lot of good success stories from people who are participating who didn’t really anticipate that students would notice or want to get involved, and we hop in the future that is where the program will go; that we can actually offer it at the school level so that students and parents can all get involved,” she said.


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