City of Santa Monica issues Fitbits to locals in health awareness program

- Liyah Grant wears a Fitbit device as part of a City of Santa Monica pilot program that encourages residents to 'get moving'. 

“I like to consider myself an active person, but this definitely makes me realize that I can definitely do a lot more,” Grant said. 

She’s one of 140 participants signed up to wear the device in the city’s 90404 zip code where a recent study showed decreased levels of activity among residents. 

“We wanted to do something innovative and forward thinking to look at how to get more data about activity levels of our residents,” Lisa Parson, City of Santa Monica Office of Wellbeing, said. 

The idea, to arm residents with Fitbits and collect the data through San Diego based research company Fitabase. 

That data will ultimately be analyzed by RAND and shared with the city to help make changes to outdoor spaces. 

“If there are people who live a farther distance from a park maybe we need to look at where our parks are located,” Parson said. “Or if people aren’t walking as much is there something we can do to make it safer or more inviting for people to walk.”

Officials believe the city’s participation in a program like this is the first of its kind in the nation. 

The city hopes to collect at least 6 months of data, but so far, the week-old pilot program already has residents thinking of ways to be active. 

“This morning I walked my son to school because we live close,” Stacy McClendon, Santa Monica resident, and city employee said. “Some days I drive him, but on most days I try to walk.”

And if you’re not up and moving the Fitbit Alta will remind you to get going. 

“If I’m sitting there for too long it will vibrate and kind of say, ‘hey do you want to take a walk,’ it will literally have that message across it,” Grant said. 

The program is volunteer-based but could raise privacy concerns if it’s rolled out on a larger scale. 

The city and its partners all said the data collected isn’t linked back to a certain person. 

“We have device information, but we don’t know the demographic details of the person who is wearing it anymore,” Parson said. 

The city is looking for 60 more participants who live in the 90404 zip code. 

If you are interested, visit their website at: https://wellbeing.smgov.net

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