Surrounded by Gov. Charlie Crist and star athletes such as former Tampa Bay Buccaneer Derrick Brooks and tennis star Jennifer Capriati, state leaders on Thursday unveiled a UF-developed Web site aimed at increasing physical activity in children.
UF informatics specialists teamed with the state Department of Health, Crist and other agencies to expand and improve the Web site for the Governor’s Fitness Challenge, an eight-week program that allows children and schools to earn awards and recognition for their progress and involvement in physical activities.
The interactive site made its debut at the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness meeting in Tampa.
Complete with online tools, statistics and even healthy recipes from star chef Emeril Lagasse, the new and improved Governor’s Fitness Challenge Web site should allow more children than ever to participate in the program, says Narayan Raum, assistant informatics manager for the UF Clinical and Translational Research Informatics Program in the College of Medicine department of epidemiology and health policy research.
“To actually be involved in a project that could potentially help a lot of kids get even just an extra 10 minutes of exercise a day is very exciting,” said Raum, whose team developed the site. “With the overall positive impact this could have on many children, there is nothing to lose here. Even if 10 kids get healthier because they were involved, it makes it worthwhile.”
Prior to the new site, students and schools had to send forms and written charts of activity to the state in order to participate. Now, children and teachers can log in to the Web site, where they can track their time and even view live statistics. For example, once this year’s program starts, the top five schools with the highest levels of participation will be listed on the site. Because schools are competing for end-of-year monetary prizes, these statistics could spur a little friendly competition and get more schools involved, Raum said.
The program starts Sept. 1 for elementary schools and Nov. 18 for middle schools. Although the challenge is school-based, homeschooled children and students in schools that do not participate can take part in the program, too.
The state received funding from the AT&T Foundation to remodel the site. UF’s Clinical and Translational Research Informatics Program software engineering specialists were hired to reconfigure the site and develop a database for program statistics. The team, led by project manager Erik Henrikson, began developing the site in January.