School officials launch new program to fight childhood obesity

SNOHOMISH, Wash - A Snohomish County Coalition is using new technology to fight childhood obesity and improve academics, as thousands of fifth grade students throughout the county are now wearing PowerPod wristbands to track their physical activity.

In Snohomish County, there's a higher rate of obesity compared to other counties in the state.

The Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition, which includes local leaders in healthcare, education, business and non-profit organizations, created Gear Up & Go in an effort to fight the epidemic.

"For the first time we will have the ability to see in real time when and where activity is happening throughout an entire county," said Scott Forslund, who is the Director of the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition.

The coalition is using the information to share insights into what influences movement and what might be done to continue the healthy trend.

"If we can get kids healthier and we can keep them in school and get them to graduation they're going to have much healthier more successful lives," said Superintendent of Everett Public Schools Gary Cohn.

"I think it will make (students) do more exercise because then we can compete with friends and see how we're doing," said student Owen Flinn who attended the program's launch at Stocker Farms on Saturday with his twin brother.

"I've been going outside and taking this (wristband) and putting it in my shoe and riding my bike around."

Once the kids are done with an activity they sync their PowerPods with a computer program and track their progress.

Their physical activities are rewarded with points and the more students "gear up and go" the more points they get. This technology also allows users to see their friends scores and connect through social media.

"It's really awesome and I really like it," said Flinn.

The coalition is studying fifth grade students because the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey shows there's a significant decrease in childrens' activity after sixth grade.