Moose Jaw tackles obesity with free program for 1,000 residents

The small city of Moose Jaw, Sask., has a big problem with weight — 63 per cent of its residents are either overweight or obese.

Company in Saskatchewan seeks 1,000 residents for weight-loss program

Moose Jaw Mayor Deb Higgins says she will participate in the weight-loss program to set an example. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

The small city of Moose Jaw, Sask., has a big problem with weight — 63 per cent of its residents are either overweight or obese.

That's not out of the ordinary in Saskatchewan, which has the highest rate of overweight residents in Western Canada.

Now, people in Moose Jaw are trying to do something about it. 

A private company called Alliance Wellness and Rehabilitation, along with the local YWCA, is launching an ambitious free program designed to help 1,000 Moose Javians slim down. That's 20 per cent of the city's obese population.

A single mom in Moose Jaw will be one of the first people to participate in the free program. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)

Participants have to be between 18 and 64 and a body mass index greater than 30, which is the definition of obesity.

"Governments are good at setting goals, but they are not so good at actual programming or actually accomplishing the goals," said Dr. Mark Lemstra, president of Alliance.

"This is an example of the private sector and the not-for-profit sector working together to accomplish goals set by government."

Each participant gets 98 free sessions with personal trainers, dietitians and behaviour therapists.

Every family doctor in the city has agreed to be part of the program, which will run until 2016.

Participants will receive 72 personal training workouts, 12 dietary sessions, 12 cognitive behaviour therapy sessions and two fitness tests.

The program has the backing of Deb Higgins, mayor of the city of 33,000. She says she'll try to lose weight to set an example.

Dr. Mark Lemstra, president of Alliance Wellness and Rehabilitation, says governments are good at setting goals about to reduce obesity, but not so good at making programs that work. (Bonnie Allen/CBC)