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VOL. 128 | NO. 20 | Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Healthy Church Challenge Tackles Obesity Epidemic

By MICHAEL WADDELL

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BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee’s second annual Healthy Church Challenge 100-day weight loss competition for churches in West Tennessee is set to get under way on Saturday, Feb. 2.

This year’s challenge is anticipated to include more than 50 local churches that will get the chance to compete for cash prizes to benefit their churches and health ministries.

“The idea for the Healthy Church Challenge came about from our foundation and company goal of impacting the health of the population in Tennessee,” said Calvin Anderson, senior vice president and chief of staff at BlueCross. “Obesity is a lead driver of diseases such as hypertension and diabetes.”

This year’s grand prize will be a $5,000 certificate for fitness equipment and nutritional counseling, and there also will be an individual prize awarded to the person who loses the most weight overall. Last year, 458 men, women and children lost a total of 2,821 pounds. Fullview Missionary Baptist Church in Bartlett won first place, which included a $5,000 gift certificate to the Sports Authority and nutritional counseling from Baptist Memorial Health Care.

The 2013 Healthy Church Challenge is part of a city- and state-wide effort for citizens to reduce weight and live healthier. Memphis and Shelby County rank in the bottom 10 percent of some studies as it relates to health, healthy eating, exercise, healthy living, life-altering disease management and prevention. The 100-day Healthy Church Challenge is designed to address the problems through area faith-based organizations and create a healthier place to live, work and play in Memphis, Shelby County and West Tennessee.

“Memphis is the focus city in the state for 2012 and 2013; however, we are looking to expand to additional cities after we analyze the findings and results of this initiative,” Anderson said.

Tennessee also ranks sixth in the nation for childhood obesity and receives an “F” on the national “Report Card: State Efforts to Control Childhood Obesity.” Roughly one-third of all school children in the Mid-South are overweight or obese, and as many as two-thirds of adult Tennesseans are considered obese or overweight.

Earlier this month the Tennessee Commissioner of Health Dr. John Dreyzehner and his health policy team visited Memphis and talked to a group at the University of Memphis about the overall lack of physical activity in the state and how sedentary lifestyles can negatively impact health.

“If you look at the rankings, it is the area that we are currently as a state, relative to other states, doing the worst. We are ranked 48th,” Dreyzehner said.

Anderson expects the 2013 Healthy Church Challenge to grow this year, with participation expected from an estimated 50 churches following 36 last year. The event is open to all churches in West Tennessee and limited to 100 participants per church.

A mandatory weigh-in will take place at the Family Life Center at 70 N. Bellevue Blvd. starting at 10 a.m. and will run until 4 p.m. Alternate weigh-ins will take place Feb. 4 through Feb. 8, and then there will be a variety of ongoing activities including regular workout sessions and weigh-ins until late May. The challenge will culminate with an Obesity Summit and awards presentation on June 1. The full schedule, as well as daily tips for healthier living, can be found on the Healthy Church Challenge Facebook page.

At Saturday’s opening event, a workout session will be led by Yusuf Boyd, founder of Memphis-based BIOMechaniks, a boutique health/wellness studio, athletic performance, and injury prevention/rehabilitation service in Germantown. A nutritionist from The Regional Medical Center at Memphis also will teach participants the basics for healthy eating.

There will also be giveaways and vendors to disseminate health care information and products.

Entertainment is scheduled to include national gospel recording artist Darrel Petties, pastor of Mt. Pisgah Baptist Church in Memphis.

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