View a video of the Step It Up Program.

BOSTON- During a visit by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Governor Deval Patrick, Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the Boston Public Schools, Partners HealthCare and the Partners Center for Connected Health announced that Partners Step It Up will be offered to elementary students at six Boston public schools this year.

Partners Step It Up is an activity program that incorporates technology, educational feedback and a fun, team-oriented virtual foot race to raise awareness about the importance of daily activity and good health. Secretary Sebelius visited the Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary School in Dorchester, and was given a demonstration of Partners Step It Up.

During the Secretary’s visit, she met with students and teachers who participated in Partners Step It Up and learned how they benefited from the program. Secretary Sebelius also took part in an ‘exercise burst’ with students wearing the sneakers chips.  

"We know that the health and well-being of our kids is a growing concern," said Secretary Sebelius. "Today there are more reasons to stay inside on the couch and fast unhealthy meals can be easier to get than nutritious ones, and the result is that almost one in every three children in our nation is overweight or obese. The Partners Step It Up initiative is a great example of how a private partner like Partners HealthCare and a public partner like the Boston Public Schools can come together to help kids get and stay healthy."

“I am proud to join Secretary Sebelius to show-off how our communities and public schools are working hard to keep our children healthy,” said Governor Patrick. “Addressing childhood obesity is imperative to future generations and we will continue to work hard and invest in programs that will ensure a healthy, bright future for Massachusetts families.”

“We are honored Secretary Sebelius came to Boston to learn about Partners Step It Up and our successful efforts to promote wellness and healthy living for our school children,” said Mayor Menino. “Teaching children at an early age about the benefits of exercise and good nutrition helps put them on the right track to live healthier, productive lives as adults. Boston supports a number of important health and wellness initiatives, including the Let’s Move campaign, to solve the crisis of childhood obesity.”

Partners Step It Up will provide wireless pedometers or ‘sneaker chips’ to 350 third and fourth grade students. The chips clip onto sneakers or shoes and are designed to measure the number of steps and count the minutes of activity of each student. The data on the sneaker chips is automatically uploaded to a designated computer hub in the school when students walk near it.

“We want to help the young people of our city live active, healthy lives. Partners Step It Up encourages increased physical activity and good nutrition, and through our collaboration with the Center for Connected Health, DotWell, and the Boston Public Schools, we’re able to expand Partners Step It Up from two to six schools this year,” said Gary Gottlieb, MD, President and CEO, of Partners HealthCare. “We are happy to announce that we will engage more than 350 students in a fun, competitive healthy living program.”

“Boston Public Schools and Partners HealthCare share a commitment to helping keep our children active and healthy, and teaching them the benefits of regular exercise and good nutrition,” added Carol R. Johnson, Boston Public Schools Superintendent. “Partners Step It Up has been a real catalyst in our elementary schools, to engage our children in healthier lifestyles. This year the Edward Everett Elementary, John F. Kennedy Elementary, Joseph P. Manning Elementary, Oliver Wendell Holmes Elementary, William E. Russell Elementary, and the Mario Umana Academy will all have the opportunity to participate in the program.”

Beginning in April, and throughout the ten week challenge, teams of students will compete in a virtual foot race from Boston to Orlando, FL. Each week, teachers will receive a report showing their team’s cumulative step count. In addition, each student will receive an individual “step report” containing their total weekly step count as well as the cumulative number of steps they have taken since the program start. The students track their steps in a fun and engaging way on a specially designed fridge magnet.

“We have been delighted at how students have embraced Partners Step It Up and increased their activity week after week, especially during weekends, which suggests that their enthusiasm for the program continues at home,” said Joseph C. Kvedar, MD, Director, Center for Connected Health, Partners HealthCare. “Partners Step It Up is successfully using available technology to raise awareness and education about the benefits of increased activity, to help motivate children in the community to be fit and active.”

According to the 2011 Health of Boston report by Boston Public Health Commission,   more than 43% of Boston’s school children are overweight or obese.  “We owe it to the young people of our city to develop programs that encourage healthy living and good nutrition and to make sure that opportunities for active living are easily accessible,” said Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission, Barbara Ferrer. “Boston’s future depends on the health of Boston’s young people now.”