Dr. Ian Smith has thrown down the gauntlet. In what is gearing up to be the most historic health initiative ever undertaken for African Americans, the popular medical and diet expert for VH1’s Celebrity Fit Club, recently launched the 50 Million Pound Challenge, a program to educate and empower individuals by providing the tools and resources to make weight loss work. “We’re creating a groundswell within our communities about the need to lose weight so we can live longer, healthier lives and improve quality of life. With African Americans leading statistics for obesity and being overweight and the high prevalence of weight-influenced diseases within the community, the challenge is the perfect catalyst for change,” Smith says. “We are a strong, proud people and we can come together to help each other to reverse these trends.”
The Challenge isn’t only about the pounds on the scale; it’s a communal effort that addresses the entire spectrum of weight loss. Smith and his champions have enlisted the help of community organizations and health professionals, including the National Medical Association, American Diabetes Association, National Urban League, and the Congressional Black Caucus. “We’re encouraging conversations about weight loss and about what healthy looks like,” Smith adds. One imperative is removing psychological impediments to weight loss which are often warped by perceptions of beauty. “We’d also like healthcare professionals to discuss with their patients why this is a critical health issue and provide information to help make lifestyle changes that would prevent their premature death.” Another key component is helping individuals understand how they can make small, wholesome food substitutions without sacrificing taste and enjoyment.
Individuals can visit or contact any one of sponsor State Farm’s more than 11,000 participating offices throughout the country for a free Challenge kit, which includes a CD and nutritional booklet on dieting, exercise, and healthy living, and a pedometer. Website visitors can sign up for a free account to track weight loss, receive nutrition and exercise information, and calculate BMI. Smith says, “The Challenge is my contribution toward getting people inspired and encouraged to make changes to protect their health.”
Average number of lost days, medical costs, and indemnity costs per claim by BMI group
Source: obesity and workers’ compensation: results from the duke health and safety surveillance system