Eight Democratic and Republican state legislators want to give a whole new meaning to lawmakers and their aides cutting the fat out of government.
In what she described as an effort to combat the nation's obesity epidemic and the increasing the cost of health care, Sen. Loretta Weinberg (D-Bergen) Thursday said she and the seven other lawmakers are organizing a "Cut the Fat Out of Government" campaign to encourage healthier lifestyles among elected officials and legislative employees.
"Our goal here is to reduce the size of government, one waistline at a time," Weinberg, chairwoman of the upper house's Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee, said. "Obesity and obesity-related health conditions are the leading causes of death among Americans, and we want to give Legislative employees the support and resources to turn their lives around, to live healthier, and ultimately, to inspire other people to make healthier choices in 2011. This is about cultivating a healthier State workforce and taking a stand against the obesity epidemic."The program, which will run from Jan. 20 until the annual state budget deadline on June 30, will be open to any legislative employee or elected official wishing to participate.
Enrollees will have the support of a licensed nutritionist and athletic trainer, and will participate in monthly weigh-ins to monitor their progress towards a healthier life. Participants will also engage in fitness and nutrition classes, and will organize into weight-loss groups to support each other in their personal fitness and nutrition goals.
Weinberg said that In order to provide the expert support needed to empower legislative employees to turn their lives around, the lawmakers are partnering with Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. Beth Israel has run a 12-week "Beth Challenge" in the past to work with hospital employees and greater Newark-area churches to allow employees and churchgoers to realize their weight loss goals.
"We're proud to work with the Legislature to develop a program that has the potential to save lives," Barbara Mintz, MS, RD, director of Clinical Nutrition and Wellness at Newark Beth Israel, said. "Not only will we be able to give Legislative employees the tools, education and resources to make healthier life decisions, but we will hopefully be able to raise awareness of the obesity epidemic and set an example for other state residents to follow."
Weinberg noted that not only will the program serve to encourage healthier lifestyles among elected officials and legislative employees, and serve as an example to state residents, but it will also serve as a cost-cutting measure for taxpayers, who cover the cost of health insurance for legislative employees. She said healthier employees means smaller insurance premiums.
The culmination of the "Cutting the Fat" program will be a 5-K run to allow program participants an opportunity to show how far they've come.
Joining Weinberg in the "Cutting the Fat Out of Government" challenge are Senators Barbara Buono (D-Middlesex), Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) Paul A. Sarlo (D-Bergen), and Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic), Assembly members Grace Spencer (D-Essex), Annette Quijano (D-Union), and Jon Bramnick (R-Union).
Michael Drewniak, Gov. Chris Christie's press secretary, did not respond to a question on whether the governor would be interested in the health program.
The first weigh-in will be held on Jan. 20 in the Statehouse.
— TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM