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2003 News from Mecklenburg County

October 7, 2003


Charlotte, NC - The Mecklenburg County Health Department and its partners today announced specifics of an all-new healthy weight campaign called the Fit City Challenge.  The Fit City Challenge aims to engage the entire community in an exercise and healthy eating initiative to encourage and sustain these lifestyle choices.

The concept of the Fit City Challenge is to make these healthy choices easier - and more fun - to make.  The program's Web site, provides information on low- or no-cost places to safely walk, work-out or play; ways to make fruits and vegetables a bigger part of each day's diet; and a fitness log to measure improvement and document success stories.  Individual goals are to walk five miles a week, eat five fruits and vegetables a day and record the progress.

The Fit City Challenge invites individual participation or competition between "teams" from work, school, faith and community-based organizations in Charlotte-Mecklenburg, and the nine other cities on Men's Fitness Magazine's list of the 10 fattest: Houston, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Dallas, Columbus and Atlanta.  Initial goals are to register the highest percentage of residents to take part in the Fit City Challenge and move our community off of the Men's Fitness list by 2005.

The most recent figures put together by the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that obesity and related illnesses such as diabetes continue to affect more and more Americans.  Ranking second only to tobacco use in preventable causes of death, this epidemic costs the U.S. as much as $120 billion every year in direct care and lost productivity.   Federal government studies indicate the number of overweight adults has doubled, and the number of overweight adolescents has tripled in the last 20 years. 

The Fit City Challenge has earned the early support of the local chapter of the American Cancer Society and the Greater Charlotte YMCA.  Both organizations recognize the capacity the program has for moving Charlotte-Mecklenburg toward healthy lifestyle choices.

"We're excited to support the Fit City Challenge and believe it has the potential to positively impact the physical activity levels and eating habits of Charlotteans," said Janine Rust, director of wellness for the Greater Charlotte YMCA.

In its endorsement, the American Cancer Society emphasized diet and exercise have implications beyond establishing and maintaining a healthy weight.  Obesity increases the risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, type II diabetes, and various cancers.

"It is our sincere belief that … the community will greatly benefit in their understanding of how vital it is to maintain a healthy lifestyle in order to best become an active partner in the fight against cancer," wrote Amy Davis, regional vice president of the American Cancer Society.

The Fit City Challenge is the result of the work of the Mecklenburg County Healthy Weight Task Force.  Charged by the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners, the Health Department was directed to engage government, healthcare, business and community leaders in identifying best practices and devise bold strategies in combating the epidemic of unhealthy weight.

"More than any other health variable affecting the future of this community will be our ability to address this issue," said Mecklenburg County Health Director Peter Safir.

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