TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Gov. Sam Brownback and members of his Cabinet are taking the lead in a weight-loss contest aimed at encouraging Kansans to fight obesity and adopt healthier eating habits.
The Republican governor on Tuesday challenged other executive, legislative and judicial branch employees to field five-member teams that will compete to lose the largest percentage of body weight. The contest will run Jan. 15 through May 15.
Brownback said that in Kansas — and nationwide — two-thirds of the adult population and one-third of children were overweight or obese. He formed a council earlier this year to address obesity in the state and develop strategies for curbing weight gain and reversing the trend.
The governor said by building a team to lose weight, residents can find support and motivation to change their habits.
"Don't give up. That's the biggest thing about this," Brownback said. "It's not about winning. It's about getting healthier.
Dr. Robert Moser, secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, said the percentage of Kansas residents considered obese rose from 15 percent in 1995 to 30.1 percent in 2010. He said that poor nutrition and physical inactivity were the two leading preventable causes of death, behind tobacco use.
"There are many programs statewide that directly or indirectly support obesity prevention, and it's in our homes and local communities where the greatest work to combat obesity can be achieved," Moser said.
Teams can register for the challenge starting Dec. 17 at www.weightloss.ks.gov . It also has contest rules and information about physical activity and nutrition.
The governor said he's recruiting four members of his Cabinet to join his team. Prizes will be awarded to the top two state employee teams with the biggest weight losses by percentage. Teams that beat Brownback's team, but aren't already in the top two, will be eligible for additional prizes.
Brownback also encouraged local governments and private businesses to form teams and join the challenge, but those teams won't be eligible for state prizes.