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(13) An Ounce of Prevention - Literally


Terrence Ates, M.Ed., TTS – PIO / Director of Community Outreach, Northeast Texas Public Health District


How does a LHD continually retain community members, many of them they never even see, to continually participate in a free health challenge? In 2012, Fit City Tyler adapted "The Biggest Loser" concept and included the element of a random lottery. Persons would receive a "ticket" for the lottery drawing by completing a health challenge that would be available for a wide variety of populations to participate in their own way. The annual Lighten Up East Texas regional weight loss challenge has averaged 3,000 entrants yearly over the past 6 years who "weigh-in" during the months of January and February, and the percentage of entrants who "weigh-out" during the last week of April have increased every year. Entry locations have evolved since the first year, as LUET has enjoyed increased community support from public school districts and private businesses, as they integrate their existing workplace wellness initiatives with our annual challenge that easily relates with New Year's Day resolutions. Weighing locations are annually requested to recruit new weighing locations within their city/county, and they can choose to be a 'private weighing location' and just register their employees, or they can be a 'public weighing location' and have their community members to to register at their location. The wide variety of companies that have been private weighing locations include school nurse clinics, city government employees, police departments, county government employees, church recreation buildings, distribution centers, fire departments, doctors' offices, grocery stores, pharmacies, branch bank locations, restaurants, city halls, libraries and community centers. A company does not have to be a 'health-related business' in order to weigh their employees into Lighten Up East Texas. In addition, a weighing location can contribute prizes that are made available to our regional participants as mid-point incentives or reserved as prizes awarded at the end of the weight loss challenge. The donating organizations are then able to become advertised as a sponsor of Lighten Up East Texas, which equates to their company being included in our promotions that expand across 35 counties in East Texas. Entry is free and the bilingual registration forms are made available at public and private entry locations across a 35-county East Texas region. A person completes a registration form that requests demographic data (e.g., zip code, age, ethnicity, proximity to parks and fresh foods), preferences to receive health information (email, phone call, or text) and the creation of peer support networks (i.e., creating weight loss teams, enrolling within other locally-available community health challenges) & steps onto an approved weight scale during their "weigh-in". During the 3-month period of their "weigh-in" and their "weigh-out", proactive health messages and community resource navigation are communicated to all registered participants. For-profit and non-profit businesses benefit from their in-kind and financial prize contributions, for the non-health incentive of having the hope of possibility becoming one of our Grand Prize winners has sustained the annual growth of the number of entrants and the increase in the number of facilities who agree to serve as weighing locations. Of the 17,000+ participants who have entered over the past 6 years, over 6,400 East Texas residents have successfully conquered our annual challenge to "weigh-in", "weigh-out" and to maintain a weight loss over a 4-month period. The cumulative weight loss is over 52,000 pounds, and the continued support of local and regional partners have sustained the inertia of Lighten Up East Texas.



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