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Auburn Students Help Their Community Commit to Fit

In Auburn, Washington, more than 30 percent of Auburn adults are obese, and the area is home to the highest levels of adult obesity in the Seattle-King County area. But Auburn High School students have embarked an effort to change that. The school’s campaign, titled COMMIT TO FIT, encourages healthy behaviors and rewards participants for smart choices.

The students who created the program are members of DECA, an organization that prepares emerging leaders and entrepreneurs for careers in marketing, finance, hospitality, and management. With COMMIT TO FIT, the DECA students are achieving dual goals: they’re learning how to manage a program while addressing an urgent issue in their community.

Since its launch in January 2011, the program has experienced a tremendous response. Over 4,000 students and school staff have registered on the COMMIT TO FIT website to participate in healthy activities. The initiative’s popularity was immediate. Within three days of the website’s launch, the DECA students had signed up over 800 participants, and more than 2,000 participants joined in just the first two weeks.

Participation in COMMIT TO FIT activities — such as 60 minutes of daily activity for one week, walking to school, making healthy food choices for one week or organizing their own healthy community events — generates points in an online account, and the points are redeemable for rewards. The rewards for participants include coupons for area businesses. For example, Vision Quest, a local fitness club, is offering gym memberships and large discounts to help support the program and promote awareness of healthy habits.

COMMIT TO FIT and 21 K-12 schools in Auburn have held kick-off events to promote DECA’s efforts. Alpac Elementary School held an assembly for 550 students in late January. At the assembly, DECA students led the younger kids in learning about healthy eating and physical activity with “MyPyramid” food group lessons, portion size education, and calorie-burning activities. The physical activities included a competitive hula hoop contest and relay races.

The DECA students’ work is supported by Public Health - Seattle & King County, which received a Recovery Act-funded grant to help fight obesity and tobacco use as part of the Communities Putting Prevention to Work program. Public Health - Seattle & King County used a small part of this grant to fund student projects that help promote healthy eating and active living among school-age peers and change school culture around nutrition and physical activity. 

In addition to helping build peer-to-peer learning and changing youth culture, Public Health - Seattle & King County hopes that the program will help the DECA students gain experience in promoting healthy lifestyles, building leadership skills, and learning how to effect change within an institutional system.