Dallas County Public Health Walking School Bus video shows exercise is fun

With 37 percent of Iowa's third graders overweight or obese, program shows promise

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Two-years’ worth of data collected as part of the Perry Elementary School’s Walking Bus Program shows the positive outcomes of the idea, and a new highlights video released today by the Dallas County Public Health Department shows the fun of it.

The Walking School Bus was funded by a grant from the Wellmark Foundation and administered by the Iowa Department of Public Health and the Dallas County Department of Public Health. It brings together school children for on-foot commuting along a planned route with adult supervision.

Jennifer Walters, community health coordinator with the Dallas County Public Health Nursing Services, said Wellmark’s funding of the walking school bus offered a welcome opportunity for improving the health of Perry’s young people.

The program started last year with Perry Elementary School third, fourth and fifth graders taking part in the pilot project by using Perry’s existing Safe Routes to School infrastructure. The routes were expanded this based on student and parent interest in the program, Walters said.

“Physical activity can positively influence health, well being and student achievement while reducing the risk for many negative health outcomes,” Walters said. “The walking school bus provides a safe and fun opportunity for students to engage in physical activity, build friendships and develop healthy lifestyle habits.”

Thirty years ago, 60 percent of children living within two miles of their school walked or bicycled both ways. That number is now less than 15 percent.

Nearly 40 percent of Iowa’s third graders are either overweight or obese, according to a 2010 body mass index assessment carried out by the Iowa Department of Public Health.

The program attracted a number of supporters, including Dallas County Public Health, Dallas County EMS, the city of Perry, the McCreary Community Building, Perry Hy-Vee, Perry Public Library, Raccoon River Valley Bicycle Co., Medicap Pharmacy, Salon Focus, Ben’s Five and Dime, ReMax Pros on Main, Edward Jones, ThePerryNews.com and all the volunteer “drivers.”

Video courtesy Dallas County Public Health Department

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