Riverside County Health Department Uses Bar Codes to Measure Walking Program

The Orrenmaa Elementary School, in the City of Riverside, instituted Safe Routes to School National Walk to School day and Walking Wednesdays in 2010, supported by the Riverside County Health Department’s (RCHD’s) Injury Prevention Services. In the past two years, approximately 200 students from the elementary school regularly participate in the Walking Wednesday program out of a total school population of 800 students. The continued success of the Safe Routes to School Program encouraged RCHD and the school district to elevate the program through piloting a new on-line evaluation program using bar code scanning technology to measure walking data.

On Wednesday, May 2, 2012, the school is one of the early adopters of this bar code scanning technology to walking and bicycling programs for to presenting real time data and active transportation metrics. Participating students will carry key tags, shaped like a shoe, on lanyards on their way to school (pictured below on the right). Once students arrive at school, parent volunteers will scan the tags using wireless bar code scanners. Then, the data will be uploaded onto a website administered by the Safe Routes To School program. Parents are given the option to receive an email or text letting them know that their child arrived at school. At the same time, Orrenmaa will add two more programs for students: (1) Running Club/Fit Fridays and (2) Special Needs students will be given the opportunity to earn rewards by walking/rolling during recess.

The bar code system is an automatic system that tracks students, who walk and bicycle to school, more accurately and efficiently. Before the bar code system, volunteer parents manually counted and entered data into a database. An integral administrative part of the program is setting up the bar code website, called Active 4 Me, and uploading data from the wireless scanners. At Orrenmaa Elementary School, the Instructional Computer Assistant will be the on-site administrator and register students into the online system. The Instructional Computer Assistant will incorporate the Walking Program data and rewards system into her school curriculum, which allows students to monitor their own progress using the new website.

The bar code scanning system is able to measure, calculate, and communicate valuable data to the school, students, and community. For example, the school can track total miles walked and biked, amount of carbon emissions reduced, and dollars saved in gasoline. This data provides a way to link incentives with walking and bicycling to school. Students from Orrenmaa Elementary School are able to transfer their impact on individual health and fitness and the environment into virtual dollars to redeem school related products.

Safe Route to School Public Health Program Coordinator at Injury Prevention Services, Gail Carlson, aims to use the program to attract new walkers and bicyclists and create healthy competition between classes, schools and school districts. Ms. Carlson is finalizing the logistics before the May 2nd roll out date, such as training program administrators, parents, principal, and school staff. She sees the bar code program as the natural next step for any Safe Routes to School program because counting students is efficient, data is more trackable, and motivation of parents and students is easier to leverage. The real-time reporting capabilities provides an opportunity to find creative rewards and incentive programs.

The program’s cost consists of school key tags, lanyards, wireless bar code scanners, and set up and management of the website. Each key tag costs 24 cents a piece, while the Active 4 Me website expenses are $15 set up cost, $1  per scan, and 2 cents for each parent text notifications. Wireless bar code scanners were donated by Western Riverside County of Governments (WRCG) through the City of Riverside as part of WRCG’s AB32/SB 375 budget, which costs about $280 each.

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