RALEIGH — FirstHealth of the Carolinas was honored this week by The North Carolina Healthcare Association with NCHA’s inaugural Healthier Communities Award. The newly-created award recognizes collaborative work by an NCHA member institution to promote health and well-being by addressing an identified need. FirstHealth was recognized for its leadership in the nation’s first implementation of The Daily Mile, an evidence-based physical activity program that originated in the United Kingdom.
The aim of The Daily Mile is to improve the physical, emotional and social health and well-being of children — regardless of age or personal circumstances. It can also help children to focus in the classroom and maintain concentration, therefore improving their potential to learn.
Through the First-in-Health 2020 Task Forces, FirstHealth worked with Richmond and Montgomery County school systems to ensure that every elementary school student has 15 minutes each school day (or the equivalent of one mile) to walk, jog or run apart from recess or P.E. class. To provide a safe environment for The Daily Mile in these rural schools, FirstHealth leveraged $232,000 of funds to build walking trails on school campuses, which are available for use by the community outside of school hours.
FirstHealth leads the Montgomery and Richmond First-In-Health 2020 Task Forces in partnership with health departments, school systems, cooperative extension offices, school nurses, school-based health centers, municipal governments, housing authorities, businesses and citizens at-large.
In 2015, the Task Force received an initial grant from The Duke Endowment for the Healthy People, Healthy Carolinians initiative for funding of the first The Daily Mile trails. Additional funds have since been received from the FirstHealth Montgomery Foundation and the Richmond Memorial Hospital Foundation to build trails at every elementary school in Richmond and Montgomery counties, for a total of 14 trails in the two counties.
“NCHA is proud to recognize the partnership and the great work that FirstHealth, the school systems, and their community partners are doing to improve the health of children and adults in these rural counties,” said Steve Lawler, NCHA president. “This program exemplifies our members’ collective mission to improve the health of the communities where we live and work.”
The collaborative team used 2015 Community Health Needs Assessment data as the basis of The Daily Mile implementation. CHNA data indicated high levels of obesity and chronic disease within the two counties, both of which are designated as Tier 1, rural and underserved counties. Initial results show The Daily Mile has increased levels of physical activity in youth and adults, with an estimated 409,293 miles walked in the program’s first two years. Additional data collection is underway. The program model in the United Kingdom demonstrated decreased body mass index and improved testing scores among students.