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Baptist Health to team with Project Fit at Benton Elementary

Baptist Health Paducah has joined forces with Project Fit America (PFA) to take an innovative fitness education program to Benton Elementary School.

Benton is the seventh school since 2007 to benefit from this program, provided by Baptist Health Paducah.

The community is invited to the program launch at 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, when students will demonstrate the fitness program with the help of the Mascot Marshall Man from Marshall County Schools and the Murray State University cheerleaders. A variety of public officials will speak. 

Principal Diane Barga said the students will benefit from the increased emphasis on fitness. Pre- and post-test outcomes from other participating schools show a 41 percent increase in upper body strength, 19 percent increase in abdominal strength and 14 percent increase in cardiovascular endurance.

Dona Rains, director of marketing and planning at Baptist Health Paducah, said those results influenced the hospital’s continued support.  “This program represents our commitment to schools, children and their families,” Rains said, “as we carry out our mission to enhance the health of the communities we are privileged to serve.” 

The program includes an outdoor playground area of fitness stations, as well as teacher training and curriculum. 

Research shows that physical education is important not only for a child’s physical development, but also academic development, such as reading and math.  “Physically active kids are better learners,” said Stacey Cook, Project Fit America executive director. “We applaud Baptist Health Paducah for taking the leadership role to bring this program to the community.  This exemplary partnership demonstrates we can all work together to make a difference to improve the health of children.”

About Project Fit America

PFA is a national nonprofit organization that creates sustainable and innovative PE programs in schools.  PFA programming includes state-of-the-art outdoor fitness equipment specifically designed to address the deficit areas where children fail fitness tests; indoor mobile fitness equipment; a dynamic curriculum with games, activities and challenges; on-site teacher training and in-class instruction on subjects such as smoking intervention, nutrition and understanding your body.  PFA is in its 23rd year of working with schools in more than 870 schools in 300 cities in 43 states. Schools report increased motivation, participation and physical improvements in their students, along with parents and faculty becoming more involved in choosing fitness activities over sedentary lifestyle habits.  

About Baptist Health Paducah

Baptist Health Paducah is a regional medical and referral center, serving about 200,000 patients a year from four states. With more than 1,700 employees and 260 physicians, it offers a full range of services, including cardiac and cancer care, diagnostic imaging, women’s and children’s services, surgery, emergency treatment, rehabilitation and more. It has the region’s first heart center and accredited chest pain center, as well as the only certified stroke center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. It opened in 1953 as Western Baptist Hospital and changed its name in early 2013, along with other facilities in Baptist Health, one of the largest not-for-profit healthcare systems in Kentucky. For information, see


Key Facts

  • The U.S. Surgeon General reports that since 1980 childhood obesity has tripled. 
  • Health experts have indicated that this may the first generation of children not expected to outlive their parents due to the health problems associated with obesity.
  • The Government estimates 6 million American children are now overweight enough to endanger their health.  An additional 5 million are on the threshold and the problem is growing even more extreme as it becomes more widespread.
  • Obesity harms a child by creating adult diseases in childhood, such as:

- Among children 6 to 17, hospitalizations for gallbladder disease has tripled and increased fivefold for sleep apnea since the late 1970s.

- Type 2 Diabetes that damages your blood vessels throughout life and decrease longevity.

- Metabolic Syndrome that increases the risk of diabetes fivefold.  If the syndrome persists into adulthood, a person is three times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

  • The lack of fitness and health awareness contributes to many problems cited by classroom teachers, such as of self-esteem, hyperactivity, aggressive behavior resulting in classroom disruptions/playground fights and experimenting with unsafe diet practices such as fasting, diet pills, purging.
  • The Centers for Disease Control states:

“Students who earn higher grades are twice as likely to get regular physical activity as compared to students who earn low grades.  76 percent of students who receive mostly D’s and F’s are not physically active on a regular basis.”