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February 10, 2017
NIH Steps It Up, Takes the Stairs

Following their own best advice, NIH staff reported increased stair usage in response to a Take the Stairs campaign implemented agency-wide by Public Health Service officers.

An employee survey found that 69 percent of respondents had seen the point-of-decision motivational signs posted by elevators and stairwells. Of them, 35 percent reported that they had increased their stair usage as a result. Overall, 55 percent of respondents had a very positive response to the campaign.

Research nurse specialist Lt. Raven McGlotten places a Take the Stairs campaign sign at staff elevators in the Clinical Center.
Research nurse specialist Lt. Raven McGlotten places a Take the Stairs campaign sign at staff elevators in the Clinical Center.

PHOTO: MICHELLE HOLSHUE

Survey response comments included: “I noticed more people taking the stairs after the signs appeared compared to before. I pass many more people in the stairway now,” and “I think the campaign signs are a good reminder to me to take the stairs. Now, I actually feel guilty when I don’t take the stairs.”

Eight percent of survey respondents reported a negative reaction. Comments reflected concerns about shaming people with mobility issues.

The survey was disseminated in September 2016 and had a response rate of 8 percent, which is typical of NIH-wide surveys.

The Take the Stairs campaign was implemented in June 2016 by PHS officers at NIH as a part of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy’s Call to Action to Promote Walking and Walkable Communities. Officers from more than a dozen ICs came together to post the proven-effective motivational messages to increase stair usage, which reduces environmental impact and saves money in addition to the health benefits.

ORS provided funding for the signs and other support for the campaign, which was launched by NIH director Dr. Francis Collins at last year’s Take a Hike Day. Nearly 40 PHS officers posted more than 3,500 vinyl stick-on signs at elevator banks and stairwell doors on most NIH campuses and buildings, from the main campus in Bethesda to Baltimore, Ft. Detrick, North Carolina and Montana.

“The response from the officers and the NIH community has been outstanding,” said Rear Admiral Peter Kilmarx, FIC’s deputy director, who helped lead the campaign implementation. “We were very heartened to have the wide coverage and remarkably positive response, but in future efforts we have to keep in mind people with mobility issues,” he added.

Shuntrice Holloman, a program specialist in the ORS Fitness and Well-Being Program, noted, “Take a Hike Day was a wonderful opportunity to partner with PHS officers to support this initiative and to further promote employee well-being. We look forward to continuing to promote the Take the Stairs campaign and the opportunity to partner with PHS officers in the future.”

The survey also solicited reports about specific stairwell issues, which were forwarded to ORF for followup. To report stairwell problems in NIH worksites, call (301) 435-8000 or submit a maintenance request at https://58000.nih.gov/.

To request Take the Stairs signs for your workplace, contact peter.kilmarx@nih.gov or edward.pfister@nih.gov.

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