News From Terre Haute, Indiana

January 25, 2013

West Vigo students kick off ‘Battle of the Fit’

Students learning about health during challenge

Howard Greninger
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — West Vigo Elementary School students danced to the “Cha Cha slide” Thursday as part of the school’s kickoff for the “Battle of the Fit,” an MDwise eight-week fitness program.

The school will compete against Ouabache Elementary and Benjamin Franklin Elementary schools to claim a title of “fittest school,” with prizes of $6,000 for the winning school, $3,000 for second place and $2,000 for third place.

The money is to be used toward the purchase of fitness-related equipment.

“We’re going to win,” said Peggy Pfrank, principal at West Vigo Elementary School as she watched the school’s 325 students hop and slide in the school gymnasium.

“It is based on fitness activities beyond the routine, so we have some things planned for passing periods, before and after school and in the classroom as well. Some active learning,” Pfrank said.

“We’re so excited. It is a win-win, because our kids will be active learners and will be physically fit, as will the staff, and we can win money,” Pfrank said.

West Vigo hopes to use its winning to help pay for a walking trail on the school’s playground. The trail would be a half mile track, the principal said.

Ouabache and Benjamin Franklin will hold their kickoff on Jan. 29. The program officially starts Jan. 30 and runs through March 27. The top winner and finishers will be announced in April.

In its second year, the MDwise Battle of the Fit program promotes physical activity, health and wellness in an effort to combat childhood obesity. Three Indianapolis schools last year participated in the pilot program, which was a 12-week program. That length was reduced this year.

MDwise, a not-for-profit managed health care organization, serves those on the state’s Hoosier Healthwise, Healthy Indiana and Care Select health coverage programs.

Participating schools earn points for activities such as general exercise, sports, games and dance-related activities. The progress of each school can be monitored at www.battleofthefit.

Becky Klingele, MDwise outreach consultant, said the company has previously held outreach activities with other Vigo County schools, “so we wanted different schools,” Klingele said. To select the three schools, MDwise “looked at free and reduced lunch percentages. These schools are some of the highest” in Vigo County, Klingele said. Benjamin Franklin has the highest percentage, she added.

Dr. Caroline Carney Doebbeling, chief medical officer for MDwise, said childhood obesity continues to rise statewide.

“In fact, recent studies show nearly 30 percent of children in Indiana are overweight or obese. We’re excited that these Terre Haute schools recognize this problem and are ready to proactively fight it,” Doebbeling said in a statement.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (12-231-4204 or howard.