CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee will take its WalkingWorks program to the halls of Tennessee schools in a pilot program set to launch this fall.

More than 30 elementary schools and approximately 13,000 students will participate in the program aimed at improving children’s health by encouraging physical activity during the school day with a simple activity—walking. Pilot sites supported by the Tennessee Coordinated School Health Program include schools located in Gibson, Henry, Macon, Monroe, Tipton, Washington and Warren counties. Cheatham and Davidson counties also have schools participating in the pilot. The program will roll out to all public K-4 schools in Tennessee during the fall of 2006 and will eventually expand to grade 5, impacting more than 220,000 students.

“WalkingWorks has already benefited companies across the state as they’ve used the program to help their employees improve their quality of life, become wiser health care consumers, and, in turn, address rising health care costs,” said Vicky Gregg, president and CEO of BlueCross. “Now with the help of various partners, we’ve adapted WalkingWorks for schools. Just as adults across the state can benefit from regular physical activity so too can children reap the numerous benefits associated with exercise and healthy lifestyles.”

Developed by BlueCross and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health, along with other partner organizations, BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools is a 12-week in-school walking program for classrooms that teaches children in grades K-4 the benefits of proper exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. Although students are the focus of the effort, principals, faculty, staff and parents can also benefit and are strongly encouraged to participate.

The program outlines a walking regimen of at least five minutes, equal to walking one lap around a track or a quarter mile. Sample program elements include an easy-to-use tracking poster, which allows teachers to record students’ progress, a WalkingWorks participant wristband which serves as a reminder to be active and make healthy choices, and a BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools Web site full of nutritional and exercise resources.

At the end of the program, students and teachers are awarded a certificate signed by Governor Phil Bredesen.

“It’s the goal of all parties involved to decrease the prevalence of childhood obesity in Tennessee,” said Governor Bredesen. “Obesity is a disease that not only negatively impacts a student’s health but also his or her ability to perform academically in school. We owe it to our children to improve their health now and to lay the basis for a lifetime of healthy activities.”

An estimated 19 to 30 percent of Tennessee school students are overweight and 25 to 43 percent of Tennessee students are at risk for being overweight, according to the Tennessee Coordinated School Health Program.

Trends in poor nutrition and a lack of physical education time in Tennessee schools have contributed to the obesity problem. While Tennessee does require yearly physical education for students in grades K through 8, this does not indicate daily activity. And when exercise occurs in a physical education class, studies indicate that it amounts to less than 15 minutes per day.

To measure the long-term success of BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools, designated staff at each pilot site will gather information on participation rates and monitor behavioral and educational impact among students with the use of pre and post evaluation surveys.

For more information on BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools, contact Emily Dockery with BlueCross at (423) 535-7137 or visit www.walkingworksforschoolstn.com.

About BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools

BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools was developed by BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee and the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Health, in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Education, the Tennessee Department of Health, Belmont University and the Tennessee Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. BlueCross WalkingWorks for Schools was created to address the growing trend of decreased physical activity in the lives of our young people by teaching children in grades K-4 the benefits of proper exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle. For more information, visit walkingworksforschoolstn.com.

About BlueCross

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's mission is to provide its customers and communities with peace of mind through affordable solutions for health and healing, life and living. Founded in 1945, the Chattanooga-based company is focused on reinventing the health plan for its 3 million members in Tennessee and across the country. Through its integrated health management approach, BlueCross provides patient-centric products and services that drive health improvement and positively impact health care quality and value. BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Inc. is an independent licensee of the BlueCross BlueShield Association. For more information, visit the company's website at www.bcbst.com.