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Fitness Challenge winners announced 

Press Release

Arkansas Department of Health & Human Services

Winners of the 2006 Arkansas Fitness Challenge receive gold medals at State Capitol

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (July 11, 2006) — Gold medals were awarded and the ceremonial  cauldron was “extinguished” today at the State Capitol to commemorate the end of the 2006 Arkansas  Fitness Challenge. But for thousands of Arkansans, better health and fitness has just begun. 

The hosts for the Olympic-like ceremonies were Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the two entities that began the Arkansas Fitness
Challenge in 2004. The Arkansas Fitness Challenge is an employee exercise contest that encourages employees to work toward the public health recommendation of adult physical activity 30 minutes
each day, most days of the week.

For the third year, Arkansas Blue Cross won the contest between the two groups. Sharon Allen, president and chief operating officer of Arkansas Blue Cross, flanked by a group of blue-T-shirtclad employees, was officially presented a gold medal by Paul Halverson, Dr.PH., director of health and state health officer for DHHS.

The greatest success celebrated was how the Arkansas Fitness Challenge has grown from the two host entities to many other groups from around the state participating in the contest and how employees have improved their health as a result. This year, 60 additional groups representing large and small companies, banks, schools and universities, physician offices, churches, hospitals and state agencies signed up for the Challenge. Representatives from those groups present at the ceremonies today were presented with gold and silver medals to recognize their achievements (a complete list of companies/groups is attached).

“It is awesome to see how the contest has grown again this year,” said Allen. “Our hope was that more companies and organizations would join in the quest for better health by ‘finding a foe’ and
holding contests of their own. We were hoping for those who joined the 2005 Challenge to come back for the 2006 contest and that new companies and organizations would follow and that has happened.
We were pleased to have more than 4,000 of our own employees participating in our contest this year. And we estimate that more than 10,000 men, women and children participated in the contest this year!”

A total of 4,516 employees from the two host entities participated in the competition from March 1 through May 31, 2006. During the three-month period, employees from each entity engaged in eligible cardiovascular-oriented exercises to work their way through 30 virtual checkpoints in Arkansas – from Bentonville to West Memphis. The winning entity was determined by whose employees had the greatest participation and scored the highest in four categories of measurement.

“The contest is a fun way to get us all ‘moving,’ but the personal gain our employees achieved once again has been nothing short of remarkable and confirmation of what can be achieved in a short
period of time when you’re committed,” said Halverson. “Every participating employee worked hard to meet contest and personal goals, and I congratulate them on their accomplishments. Other participants in this year’s contest shared results similar to ours. We all win with better health, which is why the growth of the contest out in the state makes this a great adventure toward a healthier Arkansas.”

In preliminary results from a post-event evaluation survey among Challenge participants with Arkansas Blue Cross and DHHS (1,088 survey respondents), 21 percent indicated that their health
status had “greatly improved” during the contest; 57 percent of the respondents said their health status had “somewhat improved;” and 21 percent said their health status had “remained the same.”

Of the respondents, 27 percent said they reached their own personal goal to “begin exercising;” 47 percent of respondents said they reached their goal to “increase exercising;” and 32 percent to “lose weight.”

The following percentage of survey respondents indicated their levels of exercise below:

Beginning of Contest
23 percent exercised 0 days per week
28 percent exercised 1 day per week
30 percent exercised 3 days per week
12 percent exercised 5 days per week
7 percent exercised every day

End of Contest
2 percent exercised 0 days per week
6 percent exercised 1 day per week
37 percent exercised 3 days per week
34 percent exercised 5 days per week
22 percent exercised every day

Respondents also indicated they had lowered their systolic (60 respondents) and diastolic (59 respondents) blood pressure, cholesterol levels (27 respondents), weight (208 respondents), blood sugar (36 respondents) and stress levels (65 percent) during the contest. Eighty-three (83) percent of respondents said they increased their exercise tolerance during the contest, and 98 percent said they will participate in future programs like the Arkansas Fitness Challenge.

“Through the Arkansas Fitness Challenge, we have seen these kinds of results among two populations of employees (participants) in three months,” said Halverson. “Just think what they will accomplish in a year. Imagine how much healthier Arkansans would be if every workplace had similar results with their employees year-round.” 

“The feedback from our employees again this year was great,” said Allen. “Employees told us that the Challenge inspired them to quit smoking, eat better, lose weight, get the family involved, even
participate in activities they never dreamed they could ... like walking or running in the Little Rock Marathon, Half Marathon or 5K.”

Contest results shared by participants statewide mirrored the results of the host entities. Just a few examples include:
• Arkansas Steel Associates in Newport reported that employees participating in its contest focused on exercise and weight loss with one employee losing 34 pounds; 30-checkpoint completion grew from 47 percent in 2005 to 66 percent in 2006.
• Booneville Community Hospital led a county-wide contest with teams competing in both the public and private sectors; a video conference link helped them celebrate across Loan county and they plan to hold another contest in the fall to keep the momentum going.
• The City of Hot Springs had 10 teams competing in its contest, which produced improved vital statistics among participants including several who stopped smoking.
• Rogers Activity Center employees increased their intake of fruits and vegetables during its Challenge.

During the Arkansas Fitness Challenge, employees were encouraged to exercise with consistent or increasing frequency during the three-month period. Employees advanced (virtually) on the Arkansas route by satisfying one daily exercise requirement from a list of eligible exercises (cardiovascular-focused) including walking/jogging/running, swimming/water aerobics, bicycling, court sports, aerobic dance or aerobic machines.

To stay on track and successfully complete the program in three months, employees were required to advance one checkpoint at least three times per week for 10 weeks. The more employees exercised, the more times they crossed the state.

Four measures determined the winners of the Challenge: 1 – Goal Participation (percentage of participants meeting/exceeding 30 checkpoint; 35 points); 2 – Exercise Frequency (average number of checkpoints per participant; 35 points); 3 – Overall Participation(percent of eligible population participating; 20 points); and 4 – Persistency Rate (lowest rate of nonstarters; 10 points). The highest scoring entity on a single item earned the points assigned to that measure and was the “winner” of that measure. The entity earning the most cumulative points was declared the overall winner.
Participating employees’ stats were logged and tracked electronically as aggregate data for monitoring each entity’s progress. Some notable examples of acheivements among contests statewdie were:
• Arkansas Children’s Hospital (challenged by St. Vincent Medical Center) had the lowest nonstarter rate in its contest and 65 percent of its eligible employee population met or exceeded exercising 30 or more checkpoints.
• St. Vincent Medical Center had 1,080 employees participating with 70.83 percent completing 30 checkponts; employees averaged 2.98 checkpoints per week.
• St. Bernards Medical Center and Arkansas State University in Jonesboro employees together had a 34 percent participation rate, a 79 percent 30-checkpoint completion rate, a 7 percent nonstarter rate, and averaged 2.8 checkpoints per week.
• Rural Sourcing of Jonesboro had one employee exercise 55 days during the contest.

At the closing ceremonies today, special recognition was given to:
• Arkansas Foundation for Medical Care which had 80.13 percent of its employees participate in the 2006 Challenge with 88.70 percent of participants meeting or exceeding 30 checkpoints, an average 3.6 checkpoints per week and a low nonstarter rate of .84 percent.
• Lawrence Memorial Hosptial in Walnut Ridge which had 100 percent of its employees completing 30 checkpoints and a 0 percent nonstarter rate.
• East Arkansas Area on Aging which had 16 senior centers participating in the Challenge and the “Rowdy Bunch” of Wynne winning the contest among the participants aged 65 plus.

“It was a well-run race toward the finish line, which brings us to today.,” said Allen. “It’s great to have the numbers in our favor between our two entities, but in reality, the Arkansas Fitness Challenge has been a ‘win-win’ situation for everyone. Employees in our camps are continuing to exercise even though the contest has ended and we are hearing that from participants statewide. Good habits that last a lifetime can lead to better health, and that is one of the greatest measures of success we can enjoy.”

“That’s what it’s all about,” Halverson said. ”The Arkansas Fitness Challenge is one way we have made a commitment to better health starting at home. The contest fits perfectly with our two entities’ worksite wellness programs and can blend in to others’ programs as well.”

At the end of the contest in 2004, an Arkansas Fitness Challenge “Employee Fitness Contest Kit” was developed by the host entities and presented to Governor Mike Huckabee to support the Healthy Arkansas initiative. The Kit was made available free to any group or organization that wanted to develop and hold a contest of their own — whether internally among their employees, or externally
whereby they challenged another organization. To date, approximately 700 requests for the Kit have been received. The contest Kit still is available to interested parties by calling 1-800-686-2609 or maybe downloaded by logging on to:
www.ArkansasBlueCross.com (click on “Employers” tab)
www.HealthAdvantage-hmo.com (click on “Employers” tab)
www.BlueAdvantageArkansas.com (click on “Employers” tab)
www.HealthyArkansas.com (click on the Kit logo)
www.Arkansas.gov/ha/home.html (click on the Kit logo)

“Every employee who participated in the 2006 Arkansas Fitness Challenge — regardless of who they work for — is a winner in my opinion,” continued Allen. “Now is the time to begin planning
for the 2007 Arkansas Fitness Challenge. We hope to see 100 companies and organizations representing 20,000 employees next year at the Capitol to celebrate better health with us.”

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