Technology is one of those things that gets a bad rep with respect to kids. Video games, TV, computers, these play a part in childhood inactivity. But what if technology could challenge kids to improve their health?
My guest today, Jen Ohlsen, discovered a way to do just that. If she looks familiar to you it might be because she was a sports reporter in Washington, D.C., Dallas and Austin and also hosted UT’s Coaches Show.
She is passionate about fitness. Just about everyone has heard the statics about childhood obesity and agrees it is a problem, but it made Jen pose the question, “Who will be their hero?”
It was answered not only by policy makers, doctors and educators but by a high school senior named Ashley in an inner city school in San Antonio who at five feet tall weighed 261 pounds and became the star of Jen’s first documentary “Health Needs a Hero,” which was narrated by Edward James Olmos.
Jen discovered over 1,000 children in the district with a body mass index over 40 (meaning they were up to 100 lbs over weight) and decided she needed to act immediately. Together with the district’s physical education administrator they created a course called PE 3 (Physical Education for the Mind, Body and Spirit,) which helped Ashley shed 105 pounds and run a marathon. Ashley then went to Washington, D.C., to address congress.
Pairing up with former Dell executive Ben Bentzin, she went on to create Interactive Health Technologies (IHT) and a program called the Spirit System comprised of four parts:
- Hardware: Students wear a heart rate monitor every day in PE class. Their data is transmitted into each student’s personal wellness portfolio and tracked along with the entire class, school and district data.
- Software: By the time a third grader in the Spirit System graduates she will have 9 years of her entire health history in one place. The data also correlates to attendance and academics showing how healthy kids promote better academics.
- Curriculum and Student Journal. Everyone is a partner. Teachers have access to scientifically researched lesson plans, parents have access to nutritional data and students journal their own health efforts.
- Support: HIT provides ongoing technical and customer support ensuring student success.
“Is this program just for kids at risk for obesity?” I asked?
“It’s for all kids. While one-third of American children are overweight, two-thirds are healthy but still want to see improvements.”
The Spirit System allows all kids from grades 3-12 to compete with themselves and evaluate their own progress. The program is getting a lot of attention. The PE 3 program Ashley used for reversing obesity was approved by the Texas Education Agency as an official, statewide elective course and the Department of State Health Services awarded PE 3 its highest honor for effectiveness. The Spirit System is now beginning to be used nationally.
An avid athlete in her own right (she ran 35 marathons, 3 Ironman triathlons and was named in USA Today as “Colorado Athlete of the Year” as a high school senior,) Jen supports efforts of local parents and coaches to promote healthy kids through such events as the Toros Triathlon to be held this June 9. (For more information click here: Toros Tri.)
If you would like more information about getting The Spirit System for your school, click here: Interactive Health Technologies.
If you would like to see Ashley’s story, click here:
Health Needs A Hero, narrated by Edward James Olmos
Sheslosingit.net (c) 2013 Lisa Traugott. All rights reserved. No portion of this blog, including any text, photographs, and artwork, may be reproduced or copied without written permission.