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Great River Health Systems and Burlington Schools Target Childhood Obesity


West Burlington, Iowa, Dec. 22, 2010 – The Great River Foundation, which is affiliated with Great River Health Systems, has been awarded a two-year grant from the Wellmark Foundation to help fight childhood obesity. The funding will be used to begin a new school-based exercise program at two Burlington elementary schools.

In 2009, the Burlington Community School District calculated the body mass index of incoming kindergarteners and second graders at four of its five elementary schools. Nearly 30 percent of the children were obese.

The exercise program, Playworks®, supports learning by providing safe and inclusive physical activity to schools at recess. Trained recess coaches lead daily individual and group games, and children choose which games to play. Besides increasing physical activity, the program helps children learn how to resolve conflicts, cooperate, handle competition, and feel physically and emotionally safer on the playground.

“Playworks is a great program for Great River Health Systems to support,” said President and CEO Mark Richardson. “Childhood obesity has become a significant health risk. Through this program, we hope to make a significant difference in the Burlington community.”

The budget for Playworks at Corse and North Hill elementary schools is about $78,000. The $49,639.73 grant will be accompanied by a nearly $29,000 contribution in services provided by Great River Health Systems.

“We are grateful to Great River Health Systems and the Wellmark Foundation,” said Burlington Community School District Superintendent Jane Evans. “Exercise promotes optimal brain function and enhances our children’s ability to learn. Exercise during the school day helps students stay more focused. We hope all our students will learn to enjoy and value exercise.”

The new recess program is expected to begin in February. In January, personal trainers from Great River Center for Rehab and Clinics, and teachers and para-educators who are assigned to lunchtime recess duty at the two schools will participate in a two-day Playworks training.

During the first 18 months of the grant cycle, the personal trainers will be recess coaches at the schools. Then the teachers and para-educators will become coaches.

The Playworks program will be evaluated throughout the grant period. Physical-activity levels will be measured on 12 randomly selected students from each school. Short-term success will be determined by a 10 percent or greater increase in physical activity levels.



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