A Healthier State House Challenge Enters Third Year; Vermont State House Joins Challenge

In partnership with the South Carolina Hospital Association, Eat Smart Move More South Carolina (ESMMSC) helped kick off the third annual A Healthier State House Challenge in late January to catalyze the state lawmakers, their staff, and lobbyists toward improving their health by providing tools and resources for healthy eating and active living. Last year, more than 100 state lawmakers signed up for the challenge.

Representative Neal Collins, who serves on ESMMSC’s Board of Directors, is leading the way again this year to help make his workplace environment healthier. “We want to set an example for all South Carolinians. Healthier food choices and more physical activity can prevent heart disease, cancer, diabetes and other diseases that rob South Carolinians of a quality life and cost all of us a lot of money,” Collins said. Senators Thomas McElveen and Sandy Senn have joined the ranks of chamber champions as well, leading by example and motivating their team members.

According to a FitBit Case Study, participants made significant changes in just the first year of the Challenge.

  • Eighteen percent of participants lost significant weight and were no longer considered overweight or obese.
  • Seventy-eight percent of participants with elevated total cholesterol were able to reduce it.
  • More than 9,000 steps were taken on average per day in the final month of the program. The top team averaged 10,907.
  • Thirty-one inches cumulative reduction in waist circumference, which is associated with decreased risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

These results continued through year two, with changes in weight, BMI, and waist circumference showing statistically significant change over time. Fitbit steps continued to rise, with the legislative teams daily averages above 10,000 steps per day. All the teams averaged more than 30 active minutes per day, which puts them at more than 210 weekly minutes; well above the recommendation of 150 minutes per week.

So how does it work? Participants join a pre-determined team according to their role at the State House: SC Senate, SC House, SC Staff, and SC Lobbyists. Participants are offered screenings for cholesterol, blood glucose, blood pressure, weight, and waist circumference. They’re provided resources on how to make healthier food choices, how to live a tobacco-free life, wellness guidelines, ask the trainer/dietitian, connection to their local healthcare system, and several other resources that will help them stay on track.

FitBits are used to objectively track steps and active minutes, which automatically loads to an online dashboard, Fitbit Health Solutions, for tracking and trending. Other fitness trackers can be used; however, the data must be manually entered. Team based challenges are issued through the Fitbit dashboard allowing participants to track their teams progress, message each other, and see where they stand among the other teams with their Fitbit mobile app. Activity soars during these competitive challenges. At the end of the legislative session, participants are screened once more to find out what kind of change occurred.

“Using their activity tracker, along with the dashboard, app, and services provided by A Healthier State House partners, and Fitbit Health Solutions, we’ll be able to engage in some continued healthy competition, encourage each others’ progress, and stay active as a community,” said Collins. “This year we have a new exciting opportunity to compete against the Vermont State House teams, since they’ve joined A Healthier State House and the Fitbit dashboard through SCHA’s partnership with the Vermont Association of Hospitals and Healthcare Systems.” #toomuchsweettea vs. #toomuchmaplesyrup

To keep up with who’s leading the way in the challenge, visit the A Healthier State House website or following them on Facebook.