Five billion steps: Commissioners push residents to walk more

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1. Chester County Commissioners Terence Farrell, Kathi Cozzone and Michelle Kichline hit the treadmill in Eagles gear to kick off the WalkWorks ChesCo! 2018 program – contributing to the County’s goal of five billion steps by the end of 2018.

WEST CHESTER — At their Sunshine Meeting public work session today, the Chester County Commissioners, along with Health Department Director Jeanne Casner, announced this year’s WalkWorks ChesCo! goals and challenged all county residents to increase the number of steps collectively taken from one billion to five billion by the end of the year.

In addition to upping the step count, a new goal has been set for a minimum of 5,000 registrations on the WalkWorks ChesCo! website to track and tally the steps taken towards the five billion goal.

“As of January 29th, Chester County has cumulatively taken nearly 1.7 billion steps, and 2,900 people have registered to track their steps,” noted Chester County Health Department Director Jeanne Casner.  “Our new goal is ‘5 & 5’ – five billion steps and 5,000 registrations by the end of 2018.  It’s a good balance of being a stretch, but one that we believe can be achieved with effort.”

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 the website that allows everyone to track and tally their steps.  It is the County’s response to the national Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge, a two-year competition that empowers cities and counties across the nation to create a positive health impact.  At the end of 2016, the county was selected out of 400 applications as one of 50 members of the HealthCommunity 50 and received $10,000 in community seed funds to establish WalkWorks ChesCo!

Such was the success of the first year of WalkWorks ChesCo! that the Healthiest Cities & Counties Challenge judging panel awarded Chester County an interim Spotlight Award this week which includes an additional $10,000 to support and promote the program for year-two.

“Last year we set a goal to take one billion steps from the WalkWorks ChesCo! launch in April to the end of 2017, and Chester County residents didn’t disappoint,” said Chester County Commissioner Terence Farrell, who first brought the national challenge to the attention of his fellow commissioners.  “From nearly 80 walking challenges 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 until we reached nearly 1.5 billion by December 31st.

“Public survey feedback has given us the confidence to stretch ourselves even further through 2018, and we will become even more creative in the ways in which we encourage more walking opportunities and incentives,” Farrell added.

One of the key components of the WalkWorks ChesCo! program is the specially designed website that tallies all steps taken by residents who register to participate.  The website, www.chesco.org/walkworks, 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.

“Walking is the most simple and inexpensive form of exercise and can happen in towns, on trails, in our parks and even in the home,” said Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline.  “The beauty of WalkWorks ChesCo! is that it doesn’t just direct people to get out and walk, but it creates and highlights walking opportunities like safe walking trails established in our town centers, and maps of established trails throughout the County.  It also encourages partnerships with health organizations, physicians, schools, senior centers, chambers of commerce, non-profits, scout troops and many other community and civic organizations – all in an effort to increase physical activity.”

Commissioner Kathi Cozzone added, “The benefits of walking are many.  Yes, it is simple and all you need are a comfortable pair of shoes, but it also helps to improve a person’s mental health, reduce chronic disease risks and, of course, burn calories.  And as the County strives to develop more walkable communities in our boroughs and the City of Coatesville, walking is becoming an additional – and healthy – method of transportation.”

If judged the most successful Healthiest Cities & 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 & 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.

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