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Houston mayor launches massive weight loss program

HOUSTON, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- Mayor of the fourth largest U.S. city Houston, Annise Parker, on Wednesday launched a massive weight loss challenge to her citizens, aiming to get 50,000 to 100,000 people to lose one million pounds by year's end.

The program called "Shape Up Houston," unveiled in Houston's City Hall Wednesday, asks large employers, like the city of Houston, to motivate employees to lose weight. The goal is to collectively lose a million pounds (over 450,000 kg) by 2015 New Year's Eve.

Lan Bentsen, Shape Up Houston' s founder Lan Bentsen told local media KHOU that the program is an effort to better people' s wellness. "It' s for their own good. We' ve got a significant health issue. We' ve got a significant economic issue and there' s something we can do about it."

The Texas-based grocer HEB has even created competition between stores in Houston and San Antonio to encourage its staff to get involved in the program.

The United States has one of the world' s highest rate of obesity. The most recent figures from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention count 35.7 percent of American adults as obese.

Obesity has been cited as a contributing factor to approximately 100,000-400,000 deaths in the United States per year and has increased health care use and expenditures, costing society an estimated 117 billion dollars in direct and indirect costs, according to Wikipedia.

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