Local leaders are encouraging citizens to literally begin taking steps toward good health by participating in the Cooperative Extension’s upcoming Walk Georgia program.
Liberty County, the city of Hinesville and Liberty Regional Medical Center are teaming up to promote the free exercise-tracking program to their employees and the general public.
Participants and captains of four-person teams can register themselves or their teams online for Walk Georgia starting Sept. 1. The 12-week program ends Nov. 23.
Once participants register, they will receive an activity ledger to keep track of weekly physical activity and time, according to walkgeorgia.org. Physical activities, like biking or yoga, can be translated into “walked miles” based on the average rigor of the activity and the length of time the participant or team engaged in the activity. After a participant or team accumulates miles, they can navigate a map of Georgia and chart a course to “virtually walk” the state. All along the virtual course, participants will learn facts about each county “visited” and pick up new health tips. They also can compare their progress to that of other participants across the state.
County Extension agent Kasey Lynn Bozeman said the city, county and hospital will engage in a friendly challenge to see which group has the most employees participating and logs the most miles.
“I think it’s great to see so much collaboration among different organizations,” Bozeman said.
Walk Georgia began in 2008, according to Bozeman. The program is conducted twice annually, in the spring and fall, she said.
“To date, there have been eight full sessions and one pilot session,” Bozeman said. “Overall, more than 30,000 people have participated in the program, logging 3.3 million ‘virtual’ miles of activity.”
Hinesville public-relations manager Krystal Hart said the three entities so far have agreed to monitor their own teams throughout the Walk Georgia challenge and then submit a final count so a “wellness champion” can be recognized. The city will divide its teams by departments, such as city hall, police and fire, Hart said.
“We will reward our winning employee and our winning department internally then submit our combined totals to the extension office at the end of the challenge in hopes of being the winner among the city, the county and LRMC employees,” she said.
Hart said though the official challenge is directed at city employees, workers’ family members also will be encouraged to sign up.
“Our desire is to eventually have other public entities, businesses and residents sign up as participants of these ongoing challenges so we all can enjoy the benefits of living well,” she said.
Liberty County human-resource specialist Laura Troutman, who is facilitating the county’s participation in Walk Georgia, has been encouraging county employees to better their health since 2006.
Troutman also oversees the county’s L.I.V.E. Well program, which was funded by a $4,000 health promotion and wellness grant this past year from the Association County Commissioners of Georgia.
L.I.V.E. Well stands for Liberty Inspires Vibrant Employees. The program’s four components are physical fitness, education, volunteerism in the community and health screenings. The county also urges its workers to donate blood, according to Troutman.
She said full-time, benefit-eligible employees who participate in L.I.V.E. Well can accumulate points toward prizes. Program champions are recognized at the county’s end-of-year award ceremony and receive an embroidered T-shirt with the L.I.V.E. Well logo, she said. Part-time county employees also are encouraged to get involved in the program but cannot earn points due to grant restrictions, Troutman said.
Because of the program’s success in increasing employees’ productivity and reducing the county’s insurance costs, Liberty was one of two in Georgia recently awarded a one-time $5,000 health and wellness grant from the state department of public health, said Bob Sprinkel, Liberty County assistant administrator. Sprinkel said a check presentation is scheduled during the next board of commissioners meeting Sept. 3.
“Jones County was the second county to get (the grant),” Sprinkel said. He explained the original $10,000 grant was split between the two counties.
Sprinkel and Troutman said the county’s proven track record with the L.I.V.E. Well program earned them the additional grant from public health, which also will be used to fund health and wellness initiatives for county employees.
Sprinkel said the county has formed an official wellness committee with representatives from most county departments. The committee will assist Troutman in planning health-related events, like Walk Georgia and the county health fair, along with contributing new ideas to help expand the county’s health and wellness program, he said.
“I’m excited about Walk Georgia,” Troutman said. She said the program will help “spread the message” about healthy living to everyone in Liberty County.