The Problem:

At fitbit, our mission is to empower and inspire our customers to live a healthier, more active life.  However, as a company committed to sustainable health and wellness, we have not been addressing one of countries most at-risk groups: children and adolescents.  More than 1 in 6 children or adolescents, ages 6 to 19, are considered to be obese. The risk of adult obesity, which is associated with a number of preventable, serious health conditions, is at least twice as high for obese children as for non-obese children. Furthermore, childhood obesity is correlated with race and socioeconomic status.

What Fitbit can do:

The CDC has recognized that schools play a particularly critical role in tackling childhood obesity by establishing a safe and supportive environment with policies and practices that support healthy behaviors. The school setting provides a unique opportunity for Fitbit to work with administrators in order to supplement existing health and fitness education and, hopefully, lay the foundation for life-long healthy habits.

We are proposing a pilot initiative in which every 8th grade student in a local Boston middle school receives a Fitbit at the beginning of the year. If possible, our partner school will be in a lower socioeconomic area, to address the disparities in health resources that contribute to childhood obesity.  The heart of this initiative–getting kids active–will be driven by an inter-class competition model. Other indicators of success may be developed in collaboration with relevant school administrators.

This pilot, if successful, could be carried out on the national-scale and help millions of children begin to develop healthier habits that will carry into adulthood.  

The Journey

1. Behavior that needs changing

Childhood obesity is a problem that affects our entire nation. Obese children are twice as likely as their non-obese peers to become obese adults.  In Boston, the pilot city for our project, one-third of all public school students have a Body Mass Index (BMI) considered overweight or obese.  Improving nutrition and increasing fitness in childhood  are essential to addressing long term habits that contribute to adult obesity.

2. Fitbit Challenge to the Students

Fitbit will give a Fitbit to every 8th grade student in our pilot Middle School.  The following Challenge is described to all of the kids: There will be a semester long competition between all of the classes in the 8th grade to see who can achieve the highest cumulative step count.  This challenge will be introduced in conjunction with existing health/P.E. programs. The competition will be monitored by an administrator.  Each student will have access to their own Fitbit’s dashboard and will have the ability to see all of the features, but will only be able to submit step count to a relevant administrator.

3. New technology

We anticipate that the kids will be excited about the new technology they have been given, and be interested in all of the features accessible on the dashboard, such as heart rate and sleep habits

4. Compete

Classes start to compete with one another. Some kids may be more active than others, but we expect each class to have a nice range of athletic ability/habits, so as to keep the competition fair.

5. Maintaining Hype

Kids are initially very excited and try to walk/run a lot in the first few days. Posters advertising the competition and updated stats will be regularly posted to keep the competition salient. Furthermore, cumulative scores will be announced every week to keep kids engaged and motivated.

6. Competition over

After the semester is over, the Fitbits will be given to a different grade.  The next grade will have inevitably heard about the previous grade’s experience and they will be excited for their own!

7. Prize for winning class

The class with the highest step count at the end of the semester will receive a prize.  The prize will be decided through collaboration between Fitbit and the administration.  This is the tangible reward for the hard work the students put in.

  8. Future!

Hopefully, the Fitbit Challenge added a fun and exciting dimension to existing health/fitness education. The goal of the Fitbit challenge is to emphasize the importance of being active. After a semester of focusing on health and wellness, and perhaps witnessing related benefits (e.g. lowered resting heart rate/weight loss), the kids are hopefully more likely to continue these habits into high school and, later, into adulthood.  This fits in perfectly with Fitbit’s mission of living a healthier and more active life