Like a lot of state governments, Texas wanted to slow the childhood obesity epidemic. Mandating minimums for physical activity in public school P.E. classes seemed like a good idea.
But Jen Ohlson, founder of Interactive Health Technologies (IHT), identified a problem—and an opportunity. She realized that while the physical activity mandate was well intentioned, there was no way for schools to know whether their students were meeting it. Even if teachers could watch every child all the time, how could they objectively tell which kids were “active enough?”
Jen knew that she had identified a need, and she was determined to find a way to meet it. She believed that technology could provide the answer and help empower students to take ownership of their health. With nothing more than that belief and her determination, she and co-founder Ben Bentzin founded IHT.
Together with their growing team of experts and educators, they created technology that integrates a cloud-based database, proprietary software installed on school PCs, and kid-sized wireless heart rate monitors. Even though it’s pretty sophisticated on the back end, at Jen and Ben’s insistence, it had to be very easy and fun to use on the front end, both for kids and their teachers.
During P.E. class, teachers can see which kids need help and encouragement to reach their target heart rates. After class, the monitoring data is uploaded to the database, creating snapshots of each child’s fitness progress over time.
And it’s working. The school districts pilot-testing the system saw great results. Now nearly 250,000 students a day use the IHT Spirit System nationwide.
From one small idea and a lot of hard work and ingenuity, Jen took Interactive Health Technologies from a one-woman business to an emerging player in the fight against childhood obesity. The system we’ve created is the linchpin of our business:
- Promoting a social good became a viable business model.
- Cloud-based data collection delivers easy scalability as more schools sign on.
- Easy-to-use front-end software lowers a key barrier to school district adoption.
- Schools can now demonstrate accountability to parents and administrators for meeting physical activity requirements.
- Kids at-risk for obesity-related health issues can be identified earlier, when unhealthy behaviors are easier to change.