At a news conference targeting Houston’s Texas-size obesity epidemic and announcing a campaign challenging Houstonians to collectively lose one million pounds, Houston city employee, 45 year-old Griselda Garza smiled wide as her boss Houston Mayor Annise Parker and Shape Up Houston officials congratulated her for losing 40 pounds over the past two years and thanked her for helping her fellow employees lose weight and get fit.
Garza, an administrative assistant who supports the city’s Human Resources and Public Works divisions, went from 172 pounds to 132 pounds over two years and now helps others lose weight by volunteering five days a week to teach a fitness class at work over her lunch hour.
“I thank my supervisors for the extra support at work which made it easier and fun for me to lose more pounds,” said Garza. “I just saw what a healthy lifestyle can do and now I want to share it!”
Garza is an excellent example of how changing any workplace culture, (public, private or nonprofit) can help employees lose weight, which in turn improves worker morale and productivity and it increases a company’s bottom line, Shape Up Houston officials say.
“This our fastest growing public health issue. Two thirds of our adults and one third of our children are overweight or obese,” said Shape Up Houston founder Lan Bentsen. “That’s already more than 2.4 million people in Harris County. The Texas Comptroller reports that obesity costs Texas business five billion dollars in 2000 and she projects if we ignore the problem it will cost more than 30 billion dollars by 2030.” Bentsen equated that to an invisible tax on the economy.
Bentsen, who is the son of former U.S. Senator Lloyd Bentsen, said the numbers prove a hands off approach has clearly failed, “but we don’t want government to step in with more taxes and regulation.”
Bentsen, who has managed thousands of employees over his 35 year career in oil and gas, real estate and banking and who lost 30 pounds two years ago, has the early support of the City of Houston, the Greater Houston Partnership, HEB, the YMCA of Greater Houston, and Southwestern Energy says the Shape up Houston Million Pound Challenge Campaign is taking a businesslike approach to the problem and calling on all major employers in Greater Houston to recruit 50,000 employees to collectively lose one million pounds.
“Shape Up Houston’s Million Pound Challenge campaign can be summed up in five words: good health is good business. Sign up your employees or even better – join and create a team. Pledge to lose pounds and keep track of your progress – confidentially. The totals run on the front of our website at www.ShapeUpHouston.org.”
Shape Up Houston also has the early support of the Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston West Chamber of Commerce, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Houston Black Houston Chamber of Commerce, the Houston Bethel’s Place Black Chamber of Commerce, the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Houston Asian Chamber of Commerce.
Houston Mayor Annise Parker, who made a personal New Year’s resolution to “get healthier” in 2014, pointed to the progress and healthy living culture changes the City of Houston has made during her tenure.
“Improved quality of life and the health benefits that can result from it are priorities of my administration,” said Mayor Parker. “We are seeing real progress toward achieving these benefits through the work of the Go Healthy Houston Task Force, the Bayou Greenways Initiative, our new Complete Streets Policy, the City Hall Farmer’s Market and the increasingly successful health and wellness program for the city’s 20,000 + employees and their 40,000 dependents.”
Shape Up Houston’s approach, successfully applied in other U.S. cities, is to align significant community and employer partners with this shared goal of reducing obesity. HEB, our Gold Sponsor, will engage employee, customers, and engender competition between stores.
“This year, H-E-B is doing more than ever to push the message of healthy living and to follow through by providing communities with the tools needed to put good intentions into practice,” said Winell Herron, H-E-B Group Vice President of Public Affairs, Diversity and Environment Affairs. “We remain dedicated to maintaining a comprehensive, long-term commitment to improving the health of Texans, and are proud to be the exclusive grocery retailer in the Shape Up Houston Million Pound Challenge.”
Officials say if you or your organization has yet to implement a worksite wellness program, shapeuphouston.org is a place to get started free of cost, or for a small fee if you want to use the valuable tools for setting up teams, aggregate reporting and tracking of your group and prepared promotion tools.
About Shape Up Houston
Shape Up Houston is a nonprofit organization founded in 2012 by Lan Bentsen, a business executive and civic leader. Our mantra is “Good Health is Good Business” and there is ample data to support it. Shape Up Houston calls on executives to take a leadership role in this community endeavor by signing up their organizations to participate in the Million Pound Challenge. Shape Up Houston’s goal is to reduce obesity among Houstonians by 10% by 2020 in accordance with the goals of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. For more information about Shape Up Houston and how to join the Million Pound Challenge go to www.shapeuphouston.org, Facebook or Twitter.