Improving childhood health one step at a time

Members of the Idaho Legislature received an intriguing challenge for the month of February — walk as much as we can!

It is our responsibility as parents, friends and as lawmakers, to provide children a solid foundation for their future. In my role as a legislator, I usually think about this in terms of educational standards, health care policy and regulations eased or strengthened. But sometimes it’s just plain simpler than that.

Hill New
Sen. Brent Hill

As community representatives for our districts, legislators have a duty to be role models and start conversations about important issues. For that reason, I’m grateful that the High Five Children’s Health Collaborative, powered by the Blue Cross of Idaho Foundation for Health, is pushing legislators to learn about the current status of childhood health and what we can do to keep children well.

This year, we have been presented with a concrete challenge. The Steps for Schools program will reward the three legislators who walk the most during the month of February by granting them funds for a school in their district. The money can be used for fitness equipment or other opportunities to promote health.

More than 50 of us lawmakers have accepted the challenge. As we try to walk at least 10,000 steps daily, we better understand how healthy choices are not always the easiest ones. Understanding the obstacles preventing healthy behaviors is important — so is realizing how everyone can make changes to help set students up for success.

Every step toward improving health in our state is an important contribution. We now know that a child’s physical activity level is linked to better academic performance, decreased behavioral issues and even improved social development. That’s worth a few extra steps per day.

Each day as I walk, I think about students from elementary schools in my district like those in Sugar City, Ucon, Iona and Rexburg. How effectively our communities provide for them will ultimately determine the future of our state and our nation.

Children aren’t healthy just because their parents provide nutritious meals. Wellness doesn’t just happen when schools offer fully equipped playgrounds. And health certainly doesn’t improve just because a group of hyper-competitive legislators are walking to boost awareness about childhood health. But working together, we can offer the essential support and guidance that children need to lead healthful lives.

My hope is that events like these starting with legislative participation will then make their way throughout the entire state.

I admire my fellow legislators for participating in this challenge. I know we’ll enjoy the friendly competition as we make our way about Idaho’s Capitol. But in the end there are no losers this month. The winners are the children of Idaho.

Brent Hill is the President Pro Tempore of the Idaho Senate. He has represented Idaho District 34 since 2001.