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County kicks off Wellness Challenge

April 29, 2002|BY LAURA ERNDE

laurae@herald-mail.com

When Philadelphia, home of the cheese steak, was named the fattest city in the country two years ago, Mayor John Street put residents on a diet.

Street appointed a health and fitness czar and challenged residents to lose weight through the "76 Tons of Fun" program and the city's health improved.

Taking a cue from the city of brotherly love handles, Washington County kicked off its Wellness Challenge 2002 on Saturday.

About 40 people have signed up so far for the program, which helps people set goals for physical activity, nutrition and stress management.

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"We're going to track people's progress for them. We're trying to see some improvements in people's health," said Angela Kershner, exercise specialist at the Washington County Health Department.

It's pretty clear that Washington County has a weight problem. The county's obesity rate is second only to that of Kent County in Maryland, she said.

The wellness program isn't stressing weight loss as a goal. Participants don't even have to weigh in.

But the healthy habits promoted by the Wellness Challenge will inevitably help people who are overweight shed pounds.

"They'll see some improvements. They're going to feel better. They're going to look better," she said.

Carolyn Norris, 48, signed up so she could learn more about how to manage her high blood pressure and diabetes.

"What I learned today is you take one day at a time and start out with small goals," she said.

Norris, an outreach community health worker for the Health Department, said she also plans to take the information back to the Jonathan Street community where she lives.

Monthly wellness seminars will be held the first three Tuesdays in May, June and July from 7:30 to 8:15 p.m. at Western Heights Middle School in Hagerstown, Hancock Middle-Senior High School and Smithsburg Middle School.

For more information, call 301-791-3039.

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