BALTIMORE, June 20, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Baltimore, Md. was today named a winner in the Healthy Communities Grant Program, an initiative of Weight Watchers International, Inc. and the United States Conference of Mayors (USCM). Baltimore was selected for its commitment to healthy living, evident through programs like B'more Fit for Healthy Babies. The Healthy Communities Grant Program is an initiative designed to help curb the national obesity epidemic and foster healthy lifestyles in communities, especially low-income areas that tend to have higher obesity rates and increased risks for obesity.1 The program supports a collaborative approach to creating healthier environments by establishing health-focused relationships between community members, governments and businesses, and promoting innovative solutions for healthier living.
As one of the three Healthy Communities Grant Program recipients, Baltimore will receive a grant to build upon its successful efforts to foster healthy eating, increase physical activity, and promote weight loss and weight management through access to partially subsidized Weight Watchers memberships for local residents who qualify based on health status and financial need. The total retail value of all Weight Watchers memberships offered as part of the grant is up to $1 million across the three winning cities. Baltimore will also receive a $25,000 grant to administer the new program and build capacity for its success.*
"About 28 percent of adults in Baltimore are obese, and another 38 percent are overweight2," said David Kirchhoff, Weight Watchers CEO. "Obesity fuels a multitude of chronic health conditions including heart disease and type 2 diabetes. To prevent these obesity-related, costly chronic diseases, we must act now with solutions that are proven to be effective. We look forward to working with Baltimore to help combat obesity with community-based solutions. Through this effort, we will provide Weight Watchers' proven approach to weight loss to individuals who may not otherwise be able to afford our program."
Chronic diseases including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke are the leading cause of death and disability in Baltimore City. For this reason, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) have identified reduction of cardiovascular disease and obesity as key health priorities. Reducing obesity and improving heart health are amongst the priority areas in Healthy Baltimore 2015, the city's health policy agenda. BCHD has undertaken numerous efforts to counter obesity, including providing access to healthy foods and safe opportunities for physical activity.
One program—B'more Fit for Healthy Babies, part of the B'more for Healthy Babies initiative, which is sponsored by the BCHD and the Family League of Baltimore City—is designed to help postpartum, low-income women lose weight after giving birth. Weight Watchers leaders host weekly Weight Watchers meetings, and local fitness experts from the Y of Central Maryland, Brick Bodies and Lewis and Sanders Health and Fitness offer weekly exercise instruction to participants. Since the program's implementation in February 2012, more than a fifth (21.6 percent) of the 278 participants has lost 10 percent of their body weight. The Healthy Communities Grant will allow the program to expand to serve more women in two high-need Baltimore neighborhoods and women and men, including seniors, in another area with high obesity rates.
"On behalf of our entire city, we couldn't be more excited to win this award," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "Our work with post-partum, low-income women helps mothers stay healthy and fit, and with this grant from Weight Watchers International and the Conference of Mayors, we'll be able to expand our efforts and help even more Baltimore residents live longer, healthier lives."
"There are many factors that affect obesity including access to healthy food, knowledge of healthy cooking, nutrition information, and safe outdoor spaces for exercise," said Oxiris Barbot, M.D., Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City. "Reducing obesity requires the collaboration of both public and private entities. We are looking forward to continuing a great relationship with Weight Watchers."
The Healthy Communities Grant Program winning cities will be recognized Monday, June 24 at the USCM 81st Annual Conference, for their exceptional existing healthy lifestyle programming.
"The U.S. Conference of Mayors has long been committed to mayor-driven health promotion in communities nationwide," said U.S. Conference of Mayors President Philadelphia Mayor Michael A. Nutter. "We are proud to work with Weight Watchers on this important initiative to help Baltimore and other cities support their residents in achieving a healthier lifestyle."
More information on the Healthy Communities Grant Program and grant recipients is available at usmayors.org/weightwatchers.
About The United States Conference of Mayors
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,295 such cities in the country today, and each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/usmayors, or follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/usmayors.
About Weight Watchers International, Inc.
Weight Watchers International, Inc. is the world's leading provider of weight management services, operating globally through a network of Company-owned and franchise operations. Weight Watchers holds more than 40,000 meetings each week where members receive group support and learn about healthy eating patterns, behavior modification and physical activity. WeightWatchers.com provides innovative, subscription weight management products over the Internet and is the leading Internet-based weight management provider in the world. In addition, Weight Watchers offers a wide range of products, publications and programs for those interested in weight loss and weight control.
*Award of grant and partially subsidized Weight Watchers memberships will be subject to eligibility and compliance with local, state and federal laws and regulations, including without limitation any applicable local gift ordinance. Void where prohibited.
1Kim, D. & Leigh, J. P. (2010). Estimating the effects of wages on obesity. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 52(5), 495-500.
2Obesity Rates for States, Metro Areas. Governing The States and Localities, http://www.governing.com/gov-data/obesity-rates-by-state-metro-area-data.html.
SOURCE Weight Watchers International, Inc.