(May 7, 2020) New York, NY – For the past four years, the Girl Scouts of Central Maryland (GSCM) have been running a program to address the ongoing obesity epidemic. GSCM’s Fierce & Fit program, a daytime and afterschool initiative designed for girls in elementary and middle school, aims to teach participants about the importance of physical activity and nutrition. The program is based in Baltimore City where much of the youth are disproportionally affected by obesity due to a system of complex factors (e.g., limited access to healthy foods, gyms and areas of play). Decision makers may wonder how effective the program is and if it should be changed.
For this study, PHICOR (Public Health Informatics, Computational and Operations Research) partnered with GSCM to better understand the impact of the original Fierce & Fit program and how changes to its sessions could result in even greater benefits. PHICOR used their computer model to simulate changes to the duration of the program, the number of meetings per week and the amount of timed physical activity during each session and the resulting health and economic outcomes. The model represented the Fierce & Fit program and each of its 250 participants’ change in health status, health risks (e.g., stroke, cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes), obesity-associated healthcare cost and productivity loss throughout their lifetime.
Based on the results from the model, GSCM decided to change its Fierce & Fit program from a 6-week program that met once per week with approximately 5 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (e.g. walking, jumping, aerobics) each session to a 12-week program, with sessions meeting twice per week with 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per session. Results showed that this updated version of the program could save $84,828 in lifetime direct medical costs and $81,365 in lifetime productivity losses. By doubling the length, frequency and increasing the amount of physical activity during its sessions six-fold, the program is expected to deliver cost savings nearly 2.5 times greater than the cost of implementing the program.
The potential cost savings of this program can help decision makers such as policymakers, funders, public health officials and business leaders understand the value of such programs. This study is also an example of how computational modeling can help guide the design of a program aimed at increasing physical activity. Significant opportunities remain for computational modeling to help guide the design of strategies more directly in order for programs to address a wider variety of health issues. As this study demonstrates how computational modeling can inform decision-making, it can help shift how research is conducted.
For further results and to read the just-published study, please see here.
Girl Scouts of Central Maryland serves 20,000 girls residing in Baltimore City, Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard Counties by providing leadership programming that engages them in activities and events designed to prepare them, physically, emotionally and, strengthen their skills so they can make their communities better. For more information about GSCM programming visit gscm.org or follow us on Facebook.