Penn Highlands Elk Partners with Local Schools for Health Awareness

October 09, 2015

Mark Hoffman and a pair of “zombies” from The Rehabilitation Center at Penn Highlands Elk explain the competition to students at Johnsonburg High School.

Thanks to a grant from the Elk County Commissioners, the Elk County Schools are partnering with Penn Highlands Elk for a year-long health and wellness competition. Entitled “The Walking Life,” the program encourages students and faculty to make healthy lifestyle changes like: exercising, drinking water, eating healthy and saying “No” to drugs and alcohol.

 A point system has been structured to measure how well each person, classroom and school district does. At the conclusion of the school year, points will be tabulated, and winners will be announced. The school with the most points will win a traveling trophy and bragging rights, as well as $750 for a school purchase determined by the faculty and student body. The second-place school will win $250. The winning classroom at each school will win a pizza party, and the top student and faculty member at each district will receive a $100 gift card.

 “Nutritional habits are really forming in the teen years,” said Mary Ellen Smith, chief nursing officer at Penn Highlands Elk and The Walking Life organizer. “This is an important time to educate students about what is healthy and what is not. It is also a good time to instill good habits about physical activity. So, we’re trying to do this in a way that is fun and exciting for kids.”

 According to the Centers for Disease Control, the number of adolescents (age 12-19) considered obese has quadrupled in the last 30 years. A third of all children are overweight or obese. Obesity pre-disposes a person to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and psychological problems. Excess weight is hard on bones and joints and can cause sleep apnea.

“Even the student at a healthy weight can benefit from adopting healthy habits,” said Smith. “We hope that students will take these habits to their homes and encourage their parents, as well.”

 Throughout the school year, Penn Highlands Elk will hold assemblies and educational programs at the Elk County Catholic High School, Johnsonburg Are High School, Ridgway High School, and St. Marys Area High School. Students will have logs to track their exercise and water consumption. The school year will conclude with a 5K race/walk.