CEO of area business Picture Wellness Maurice Saliba is one of two people statewide who are administering a CDC pilot program in an effort to combat diabetes and lower health care costs.
"I think, as a society, we focus a lot on the research and facts," Saliba, who has been in the wellness business for about 27 years, said. "We know that eating fruits and vegetables is better than eating junk food and candy bars. So we continue to beat the message down. It's not that the message is wrong; it's that the message is not being absorbed properly."
In 2008 and 2009, he helped 600 people in Bradley County lose more than 10,000 pounds combined through his business, Picture Wellness, which targets people with "high-risk" health concerns.
He outlined 12-week courses and offered exercise help, health counseling and nutrition education. And he took the participants grocery shopping to show them what to buy.
He used a church gym to bring in groups to exercise, and he realized that he had created a support group for people who didn't know how to get their lives turned around.
Forty-two percent of people finished the entire first year, he also said.
The group trained twice a week, had nutritional counseling once a week and went grocery shopping once a week.
In 2010, Saliba took his program to Mohawk Industries, which is one of the largest employers in Northwest Georgia.
Phil Brown, vice president of human resources, wrote a letter of recommendation about Saliba's program and said that—as of December 2011—800 of the company's employees lost a total of 6,500 pounds.
It has helped the company save money on annual health care costs, he also said.
Now, Saliba is one of two people in the state who are administering a pilot program created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gov. Bill Haslam has said he has a commitment to improve the health of state residents, and Saliba is working with the state to test the CDC's program, which is called the National Diabetes Prevention Program. Click here for more information about that program.
Click here to read more about the governor's efforts to improve health.
He will be working with state employees in Knoxville and Nashville as a pre-diabetic educator.
The program targets people who have pre-diabetes and aims to prevent or delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes.
According to the CDC, the program can help people cut their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in half.
And making modest behavior changes can help participants lose 5 to 7 percent of their body weight, which can make a big difference in a person's health.
For a 200-pound person, 5 to 7 percent is 10 to 14 pounds.
Saliba said that is a very reachable goal—losing one pound a week, some people could meet that goal in about 12 weeks.
Beginning on Oct. 21, he will be helping teach classes to state employees in Nashville and Knoxville.
The goal is to reach 250 people in Middle and East Tennessee and 250 people in West Tennessee for a total of 500. There is another educator, like Saliba, in West Tennessee facilitating the program.
And Saliba said his company can also help area businesses whose leaders want to save money on health care costs.
"You need to start thinking about changing the population you already have to prevent [cost] increases down the road," he said.
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