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Prince George's County teams up with local churches to find 'The Biggest Winner'

"The Biggest Winner" logo. (WJLA photo)

UPPER MARLBORO, Md. (WJLA) – Prince George's County officials are working to combat obesity one church at a time.

The Prince George's County Council, which sits as the Board of Health, unveiled a pilot program called "the Biggest Winner." The healthy competition will start on Sunday, March 1 and run until May 31.

Three churches in the county will participate: First Baptist Church Highland Park, the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square, and St. Paul Baptist Church.

The program will enroll about 50 to 70 church members from each congregation in a challenge to see who can lose the most weight over the competition time. It will combine exercise with nutritional help.

The county will provide each church ministry with tools to help track progress, including pedometers and a food chart.

Each person will have their weight recorded weekly and the County Board of Health Initiative will review it, but all information will remain confidential.

The program was created to try to reduce the number of obese and overweight adults and children in the county. Officials state that over 50 percent of children and 70 percent of adults are considered overweight or obese in the county.

Meanwhile, a study that was completed by Northwestern School of Medicine revealed that young adults who regular go to religious activities were 50 percent more likely to become obese by middle age than those who had no religious involvement.

"There are more than 350 congregations in the county and there is tremendous opportunity for traction in the county by starting with a faith-based initiative," said Dr. Joseph Wright, a pediatrician who serves as a consultant for the program.

The pastors from each church say they play a big role in making this effective.

"Too many of our people are really struggling with various health disorders. And a lot of the things that we struggle with could be avoided if we were a little bit more careful with what we eat and about getting a little bit more exercise," said Pastor Robert Williams Sr., of St. Paul Baptist Church.

"Mind, body, and soul is our responsibility, and we not only embrace the challenge, but we look forward to the opportunity," said Pastor Anthony Maclin, of the Sanctuary at Kingdom Square.

"We are very excited about that, not just for our church, but beyond the walls of our church," said Pastor Henry Davis, of First Baptist Church Highland Park.

County officials said they would like the program to expand in the years to come to other churches and organizations throughout the county.

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