21 million steps and counting!

May 22, 2012

MPTF employees recently took on the national trend towards obesity and began to turn it around – at least in our own little world.  Last year, we decided to put a lot more effort into our employees’ health and wellness and launched an MPTF Wellness program, led by program manager Tamara Walker.  Since then, Tamara has kept us all very busy thinking about and acting upon our individual health and wellness.

What motivated us?  Well,  I don’t know whether you saw the Los Angeles Times article this month on obesity, but trust me, it was SCARY!  Melissa Healy wrote about a recent government-led conference (The Weight of the Nation) on the public health ramifications of the trend toward widespread obesity that we’ve been hearing about for some time now.  (There’s a 4-part documentary with the same name as the conference that’s airing on HBO this week.)  While the growth in obesity appears to be slowing down – possibly related to public policy initiatives aimed at preventing childhood obesity, higher awareness of health risks associated with obesity, or “because Americans have hit the maximum level of fatness a population can sustain,” – at current trends (from 5% severely obese today to 11% in 2030) the cost of treating obese people for diabetes, heart disease, and other medical conditions would add up to nearly an additional $550 billion over the next two decades.  And if you just said “wow,” why am I not surprised? As a nation, we have a real problem to solve. And so we chose to try to start solving it here, in our own backyard.

Late last year we began our Wellness effort with a Maintain Your Weight holiday challenge, some healthy cooking classes with Chef Juan Acosta (our chef on campus), a Lunch n’ Learn with our dietitian Britany Sansone, and 3-Part Breath and Yoga classes.  This year, we added a pilot project on gardening and launched activity programs like Power Walks, Yoga, and Dance to the Beat group classes.  Most recently, in the month of April, we had a campus-wide Step It Up with Your Execs challenge, which included both employees and residents, with 2 components:  track how many steps you take each day during the month of April (thanks to pedometers contributed to MPTF by the Kaiser Foundation) and take more steps than your CEO!  (I’m a fitness nut, so it was a real challenge!)

We had 305 employees sign up for the challenge and almost 25% of them completed the month-long program and reported their steps. The total number of steps logged was a little over 21 million, or over a quarter-million steps on average for each participant.  That translates into a bit more than 10,000 miles for the month of April for our MPTF steppers.  Think about it this way:  flying from Los Angeles to Cape Town, South Africa is 9,992 miles.

The Steps challenge was contagious on campus and 6 of our residents joined in, logging over 1 million steps.  That’s roughly 528 miles, or almost to San Francisco and back!  The challenge was a total success.

Without belaboring the obvious, this national obesity problem (17% for children and 35% for adults) afflicts our industry and its members and families as well.  Our primary care physicians see it all the time in our health centers.   And I would speculate that substantial health care costs are being driven by treatment for medical conditions related to overweight conditions.   As we all know, health care costs are and will continue to be front-and-center for every organization, and there are opportunities available to all of us to make our own contributions to better personal health and lower health care costs.

What employee wellness programs like MPTF’s can do is make industry members and their families more aware of how much they move and demonstrate that small changes in habits can equate to large changes in how you look and feel and in your overall health over the long term.  I can’t tell you how many employees stopped me during April to talk about their steps and ask about mine (a competitive group!) and to relate to me how they had changed many of their habits to earn more steps:  getting up from their desks and walking over to talk to colleagues rather than using e-mail or the phone; walking to the local shopping center for lunch and/or errands instead of getting in their car and driving over; taking a walk at home after dinner instead of immediately flopping on the couch to watch TV; getting up early, before work, to walk – and actually feeling better at work as a result.  The list goes on.  We are VERY PROUD of those who participated in the challenge – even, or especially, the 10 employees who out-stepped me! – and who are leading the way for all of us in taking responsibility for our health.

About Bob Beitcher

Bob Beitcher is the President and CEO of the Motion Picture & Television Fund. He has been a senior executive in the entertainment industry for 30 years, having held leadership roles at Jim Henson Productions, Paramount Pictures, Panavision and MacAndrews & Forbes Media Group. Bob has been an MPTF board member since 2007. He became interim CEO in 2010 and was named permanent CEO in 2011.

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