Weinberg, Lawmakers And Health Care Experts Kick Off Cutting The Fat Out Of Government Campaign

Program Will Allow Legislative Employees, Elected Officials to Make Healthier Choices, Reduce Health Care Costs Associated with Obesity to Taxpayers

TRENTON – At a Statehouse news conference today, Senator Loretta Weinberg, a bipartisan group of lawmakers and a panel of health experts kicked off the “Cutting the Fat Out of Government” Wellness Campaign to give elected officials and legislative employees an opportunity to lose weight and live healthier in 2011.

“This is about empowering people at the Statehouse to make choices that will save their lives, and hopefully encourage New Jerseyans to follow our example,” said Senator Weinberg, D-Bergen, and chairwoman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee. “We all pay a higher cost for the obesity epidemic, whether that’s the cost of employee health care for State employees, or personal health care through higher premiums to subsidize unhealthy lifestyles. I want to thank the folks at Saint Barnabas and Newark Beth Israel for partnering with us to reduce the size of government, one waistline at a time.”

The 2011 “Cutting the Fat Out of Government” Wellness Challenge is a partnership between the State Legislature and Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, a national leader in wellness education which was recently recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama for their efforts to address the obesity epidemic. Newark Beth Israel, an affiliate of the Saint Barnabas Health Care System, 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. The “Beth Challenge” received the New Jersey Hospital Association award for community outreach for its partnership with a local fitness center in helping community members to improve their lifestyle and lose weight.

“The Saint Barnabas Health Care System is commitment to helping patients, families and employees attain a healthy balance for a longer life,” said Ronald J. Del Mauro, Chief Executive Officer. “We are very pleased that members of the New Jersey legislature are adopting the Newark Beth Israel program.”

“We encourage all New Jersey residents to maintain a healthy weight and to embrace physical fitness as a part of their everyday lives,” says John A. Brennan, MD, Executive Director of Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Newark Beth Israel strives each day to help patients and families strike a healthy balance for a longer life.”

The “Cutting the Fat” program, which will run from January 20 until the annual 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 registered dietitian and certified personal 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.

“We’re proud to work with the Legislature to develop a program that has the potential to save lives,” says program creator Barbara Mintz, MS, RD, Director of Clinical Nutrition and Wellness at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center. “Not only will we be able to give the 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. It is time to partner with community and state leaders to help lower the prevalence of obesity.”

After the initial round, the “Cutting the Fat Out of Government” program had 67 lawmakers and legislative employees who weighed in, and took the first steps to make 2011 their healthiest year yet. 72 people had pre-registered for the program and will be taking part in future weigh-ins and nutritional classes. Following today’s news conference, Barbara Mintz held the first nutrition class for the program.

The “Cutting the Fat Out of Government” Wellness Challenge is a bipartisan and bicameral effort to promote healthier living in the Garden State. Legislative co-chairs include: Senator Weinberg; Senator Jennifer Beck, R-Monmouth and Mercer; Assemblyman Jon M. Bramnick, R-Union, Essex, Morris and Somerset; Senate Majority Leader Barbara Buono, D-Middlesex; Senator Sandra Bolden Cunningham, D-Hudson; Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, D-Union; Senator Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex and Union; Senator Paul A. Sarlo, D-Bergen, Essex and Passaic; Assemblywoman Grace Spencer, D-Essex and Union; and Senator Jim Whelan, D-Atlantic.