In an effort to do its part to stem the growing tide of health issues, the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce kicked off its health initiative Wednesday afternoon. A group of chamber representatives and members of the chamber walked around Central Park in an effort to bring awareness to the issue.

Mita Bates, Ardmore Chamber president and CEO, referred to health statistics, painting an unflattering picture of the state and community. Oklahoma dropped from 43rd to 44th in the nation in health rankings. Furthermore, 32.2 percent of Oklahomans are considered obese, which is nearly 5 percent higher than the national average and 8.6 percent higher than the healthiest state. Carter County ranks in the bottom 10 percent of all counties in the state.

The chamber announced it would adopt a health initiative during its banquet and introduced its “Stepping Out” program at Central Park. The chamber is partnering with the Oklahoma Institute of Health. The chamber is offering Pebbles, which are worn on a shoe or another part of clothing to record the number of steps taken throughout the day, and are logged onto software into a community of chamber participants.

The chamber provides a Pebble and four months of software support. Chamber members participating in the event can purchase the Pebble and access point software for $29. The chamber is also underwriting the expense of software support for four months. After four months, the Pebble user can continue the program at a cost of $5 a month.

“It is beneficial to small business owners that don’t have the access to the same resources as larger businesses,” Bates said.

Bates said the chamber has purchased 100 Pebbles for distribution, and of those, 20 are being used right now by chamber members acclimating themselves to the program.

Among those present at the “Stepping Out” rollout was Ardmore Institute of Health Interim President Kevin Brown. Brown said he has been using a Pebble since January 2013, and recently reached a landmark of 5 million steps logged into the system.

“We are thrilled the chamber is doing this,” Brown said. “We are just trying to do something to change the climate of health in the area, and the Pebble seems to have gained some traction and we are happy about that.”

Brown cited the Pebble as a motivational tool in being able to see the progress made and measure that progress against others within the community.

“I am surprised about how long I have been motivated. It is motivating to log on and see my numbers several times a day.”

Brown said he hasn’t changed his walking routine since receiving his Pebble last year, but has become more faithful to walking at work, even if that includes a treadmill.

Bates said she has been receiving inquiries about the Pebble, and invites small businesses to contact the chamber for more information or inquiries about taking part in the program at (580) 223-7765.