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Learn to live a lighter life: State Farm helps more than half a million Americans create healthier, longer lives through The 50 Million Pound Challenge.

After losing three relatives in one year to diseases attributed to obesity, Lawana Williams made losing weight a top priority.

She received a card in the mail from Dr. Ian Smith, a physician, New York Times best-selling author and medical/diet expert on VHI's Celebrity Fit Club, inviting residents of Detroit to a free national health initiative he created to help combat one of the nation's top health problems.

The 50 Million Pound Challenge, which officially launched in April 2007, is an online initiative that invites participants to receive information and tools to help shed pounds, receive encouragement and keep track of their progress.

Participants can join at There they will find free tips, tools, a personal weight tracker and challenge teams to support their quest to lose weight.

Williams is one of more than 600,000 other individuals across the country who are part of its online community.

From the onset, State Farm saw the important role The Challenge would have in helping create healthier lifestyles and saving lives, and joined the fight as the sole sponsor of the event, said Pam El, marketing vice president.

While everyone is invited to participate, the national initiative was primarily targeted to the black population. Eighty percent of black women and 67% of black men are overweight, leading to a higher incidence of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Last year, The 50 Million Pound Challenge kicked off with a 14-city U.S. tour. This year's challenged has further expanded to reach out across grassroots America by partnering with churches, colleges, cities and civic groups to mobilize more people to join The Challenge online community, said El. In June, the first city-wide challenge was issued in Cleveland by Smith and Cleveland Cavaliers' basketball superstar (and recent Olympic athlete) LeBron James.


As of mid-July, nearly 2.4 million pounds of the 50 million pound goal already have been lost.

The Challenge is backed by members of Congress, mayors and national health and civic groups such as the American Diabetes Association, and celebrities such as singer Patti LaBelle and actor Steve Harvey.

As for State Farm, El said, "Not only do people have affinity toward our brand because we're sponsoring this program, but it's also an opportunity for our agents to engage with customers and prospects and give back to their community. We have agents who hold local fitness classes, sponsor walks or pull together teams in the name of The Challenge."

State Farm recently kicked off an internal challenge and nearly 10,500 employees have shed more than 72,600 pounds since the beginning of the year.

El added that one of the most heartwarming parts of The Challenge has been reading blogs by participants who have been able to stop taking their medications for high blood pressure or diabetes, thanks to losing weight on The Challenge. "Our goal is to have people say that Dr. Ian helped them, or perhaps saved their life. And, hopefully they'll also thank State Farm for making that possible."
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Title Annotation:The Last Word;
Author:Chordas, Lori
Publication:Best's Review
Date:Sep 1, 2008
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