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Kids get moving, encourage others with Sqord wristbands
SNOHOMISH COUNTY - Fifth-graders across Snohomish County are having fun being more active, and that’s encouraging news for health officials wanting to reduce childhood obesity.
A county health coalition dispatched thousands of accelerometer wristbands earlier this fall to 7,000 kids in every school district in the county that track movement, vigor and duration. The wristbands are called Sqord PowerPods, and the kids are eager to wear them.
Using Sqords, the coalition hopes to reduce obesity and get kids off the couch by making the movement trackers work like a video game. Kids rack up points for any sort of movement, and they can see how that adds up. They compete against each other for the most points, and using preset messages, they can send messages to encourage their friends.
The effort is to reverse sedentary lifestyles at a time when physical education and recess hours are being cut, and spending an afternoon on the Internet can be an everyday temptation.
Approximately 11 percent of all Snohomish County fifth-graders are overweight. Five years ago, almost one-third of fifth-graders got an hour of exercise. Now, only one-fourth get an hour of exercise.
Kids aren’t worried about any of those numbers. They want to get the most Sqord points they can.
At Lowell Elementary in Everett, kids are noticing they’re being more active.
Miles McAllister, 10, likes a good workout but he’s seeing other kids being more active in physical education class.
“Ever since I got it, I’ve been working harder to move around,” McAllister said.
His friend Sarjo Jallow, 10, said these track any kind of movement. Jallow was surprised sitting in class earned a tiny amount of points, but he’s focused on getting big points from playing sports.
The wristbands are waterproof. Madison Johnson, 10, keeps her Sqord on while she participates on her swim team.
“I get a whole bunch of points because I do all of the strokes,” Johnson said.
A typical half-hour of P.E. class can rack up 40,000 Sqord points. The kids the Tribune talked with said a good swim or soccer game rack up a similar amount of points.
“For a kid, that’s a lot,” Allan Michael Hawkins, 10, said.
Some kids are now making 40,000 points their daily goal, Jallow said.
“They’re sort of like a speedometer,” Hawkins said. “And another thing is, you can take it out and put it in your pocket.”
The kids can convert points into free items such as T-shirts. Hawkins already earned some freebies earlier this month.
Kids can track their movement online and see how they compare to their classmates. The Sqord website tallies top point earners.
The kids said their parents like it, too.
“My parents liked it because they thought it would make me more active,” Hawkins said.
The kids can track their points with scanning pods placed in all of the classrooms. Some have a scanner at home their parents bought for $25.
Plus, all of the participating kids get free enrollments to their local Y, where Sqord scanners are available.
P.E. teacher Craig Langley sees a lot of positives.
“You’ve got to meet kids at their level, with video games and graphics,” Langley said, pointing out how kids can send each other “high fives,” which are pre-written encouragement messages similar to “liking” something on Facebook.
The big indicator of how it’s working will be the class’s spring fitness test in May, which compares height, weight and body mass index to September.
The coalition’s goal is to increase measured activity levels among fifth graders in the next statewide Healthy Youth Survey.
The Sqords’ implementation is the first real-time online tracking map of movement in the nation.
How long kids stay interested is the biggest unknown. Kids wear the wristbands voluntarily.
Officials are hoping the Sqords give kids a mindset to stay active well into adulthood. They call it fostering better health and health care through vitality.
Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Gary Goldbaum, a coalition steering committee member, said the community has to keep kids interested in them.
Langley feared that Sqord points could end up being a passing fad after Christmas break.
“It’s not just the technology, it ultimately requires community support … to sustain interest levels,” Goldbaum said. The coalition looked at how to keep it up before unleashing the Sqords.
“There’s a direct correlation to academic success,” said Scott Forslund, the coalition’s director and an executive with health insurer Premera Blue Cross.
The coalition hopes to overlap data in the future to neighborhood walkability, crime levels and eventually make public health recommendations to make informed decisions on safer communities that encourage people to go outside, Forslund said.
Officials emphasize the Sqords are not geolocators. They also emphasize the data collected is kept private.
For more information, the coalition’s website is www.snocohealth.org.

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