BALTIMORE, Jan. 21, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake and Weight Watchers Ambassador Jennifer Hudson launched the expansion of a B'More for Healthy Babies initiative through the Weight Watchers and U.S. Conference of Mayors Healthy Communities Grant Program.
Led by the Baltimore City Health Department (BCHD) and the Family League of Baltimore City, B'More for Healthy Babies (BHB) brings together communities, organizations, and resources so that every baby might have the best start possible. As part of BHB, the B'More Fit for Healthy Babies Program has offered Weight Watchers memberships and exercise classes to postpartum women from low-income households to help them lose weight after giving birth.
The new Healthy Communities Grant will enable the expansion of the program to serve more women in Baltimore's Patterson Park and Druid Hill neighborhoods, as well as women and men, including seniors, in Park Heights. Residents with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or higher who receive assistance from a local, state or federally subsidized program (WIC, SNAP, Medicaid, Medicare, Student Aid, etc.) can qualify for steeply-subsidized Weight Watchers meetings plus online and mobile tools to help them achieve a healthy weight, along with fitness instruction from local fitness experts.
"It's going to take a collaboration of both public and private entities to reach our goal in reducing obesity," said Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. "And we're looking forward to continuing our partnership with Weight Watchers to offer a successful initiative to more Baltimore residents."
Hudson recognized current participants in the BHB program and their inspiring stories while highlighting how important it is to teach and support healthy lifestyles in the community.
"What Baltimore is doing to get healthy is inspiring, and I'm honored to be here today," said Jennifer Hudson. "Where I come from obesity is a huge issue, and I understand how it can feel overwhelming to re-do your lifestyle with a complete healthy makeover. Weight Watchers helped me change my life one simple step at a time, and I know Baltimore members and their families will become healthier and happier, too."
"The Baltimore City Health Department along with Mayor Rawlings-Blake are leaders in tackling issues of adult obesity with the B'More Fit for Healthy Babies program, and we are pleased to help expand this important initiative," said Karen Miller-Kovach, Chief Scientific Officer, Weight Watchers. "About one third of Americans are obese today and we must act now with solutions that are proven to be supportive, effective, sustainable and deliverable in scalable way. This Healthy Communities Grant Program makes the evidence-based Weight Watchers approach accessible to those who otherwise would not be able to afford it and demonstrates that we do have a viable solution to this public health problem."
Baltimore City Takes Action
About 36 percent of Baltimore City residents are obese, which is higher than both the national average (35.7 percent) and Maryland state-wide data (28.3 percent) 1. In addition, 45.3 percent of African-Americans in Baltimore are obese, which is less than the national average of 49.5 percent, but higher than Maryland's figure of 37.8 percent1. Chronic diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke, which are associated with obesity, are the leading cause of death and disability in Baltimore. For this reason, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Baltimore City Health Department 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.
As part of B'More Fit for Healthy Babies, Weight Watchers leaders currently host weekly Weight Watchers meetings, and local fitness experts from the Y of Central Maryland and Brick Bodies offer weekly exercise instruction to participants. Among the 100 participants at both sites (Druid Hill/Upton and Patterson Park) who have attended at least 12 weekly Weight Watchers meetings, 42 (42.0%) have lost at least 5 percent of their body weight. A weight loss of 5 percent or more is known to improve health markers such as helping to reduce risk factors for cardiovascular disease and improve blood sugar levels.
"There are many factors that affect obesity including access to healthy food, understanding of nutrition and healthy cooking, as well as availability of safe outdoor spaces for physical activity," said Oxiris Barbot, M.D., Commissioner of Health for Baltimore City. "Reducing obesity requires the collaboration of both public and private entities working with communities to have sustainable reductions in this major public health challenge. We look forward to continuing a great relationship with Weight Watchers."
Baltimore and the Healthy Communities Grant Program
The Weight Watchers and U.S. Conference of Mayors Health Communities Grant Program launched in January 2013 when eligible cities were invited to submit applications demonstrating how the grant would add to their city's existing healthy lifestyle programming. In June, Baltimore was one of three cities selected as a grant recipient for its commitment to healthy living, increasing physical activity, and promoting weight loss and weight management. The total retail value of all Weight Watchers memberships offered through the Healthy Communities Grant Program is up to $1 million across the three winning cities and each city also received a $25,000 grant from Weight Watchers to administer the new program and build capacity for its success.
The Health Department is working with partner organizations to qualify Baltimore residents for this program. For more information about qualifying, please contact Stacey Tuck, Baltimore City Health Department, at 410-396-9994 or Stacey.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Weight Watchers meetings for qualifying participants will be held at the following locations:
- Y of Central Maryland at Druid Hill at 1609 Druid Hill Avenue (women only)
- Patterson Park Recreation Center at 2601 E. Baltimore Street (women only)
- Zeta Center for Healthy & Active Aging at 4501 Reisterstown Road (men and women are eligible).
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.
12011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System data.
SOURCE Weight Watchers International, Inc.