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The team known as On Fire won the inaugural Great Hernando Weight Loss Challenge.

BROOKSVILE — At midnight on Jan. 1, the ball dropped at Times Square in New York, and 2019 was officially embraced. As many as 40 percent of Americans made New Year’s resolutions, with 45 percent vowing to become healthier in the new year.

It is no surprise the Great Hernando Weight Loss Challenge is back, bigger than ever, for the third year. Kick-off for GHWLC 2019 will take place from 9 a.m. until noon Jan. 19 at the Brooksville Mining Association Enrichment Center, 800 John Gary Grubbs Road.

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The weigh-in for the 2019 edition of the Great Hernando Weight Loss Challenge will take place Jan. 19.

The annual challenge was launched as a pilot idea in 2017 by Richard Linkul, the recently retired former director of marketing at Oak Hill Hospital. The initiative was launched through Community Health Improvement Plan Partnership. CHIPP is a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the health of Hernando County residents.

According to County Health Rankings data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 31 percent of residents are obese. A 2018 Hernando County Health Assessment revealed 66 percent are either overweight or obese.

Obesity is a precursor to cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and musculoskeletal disorders.

Here’s how GHWLC works:

Teams of 10 people committed to lose 10 pounds each during a 10-week period beginning in mid-January. That inaugural year was a success, promoting GHWLC’s organizers to carry it into a second year.

Last year, the combined weight loss from participating teams was 7,000 pounds. Winners in specific categories received gift cards with the winning team and individuals recognized at an after party held downtown, in front of the Hernando County Court House, in March.

Each year, organizers survey participants to find areas needing improvement. And tweaks were once again applied.

“A few things different this year,” explained Ann-Gayl Ellis, health education program consultant for Florida Department of Health Hernando. They added winning categories based on surveys they conducted after each challenge.

One big reason the challenge is so successful is because it offers incentives and accountability. Teams are expected to weigh-in every week and report their losses to their captains.

It’s easy. They can weigh in at their homes or utilize on of the public weigh stations placed throughout the county. Locations include:

• YMCA of the Suncoast, 1300 Mariner Blvd., Spring Hill.

• Premier Community Healthcare, 7551 Forest Oaks Blvd., Spring Hill.

• Hernando County Library Main Branch, 238 Howell Ave., Brooksville.

• Eastside Elementary School, 17151 Roper Road, Brooksville.

• Hernando Loser, 13119 Cortez Blvd., Brooksville.

As if losing weight by developing better nutrition and fitness plans wasn’t incentive enough, those who participate are offered prizes in specific categories. They include:

• Individual male with greatest weight loss, $250 gift card.

• Individual female with greatest weight loss, $250 gift card.

• Individual male with greatest percent weight loss, $250 gift card.

• Individual female with greatest percent weight loss, $250 gift card.

• Team with the greatest total weight loss, $500 gift card.

• Team with the 2nd greatest total weight loss, $100 gift card.

• Team with the greatest percent weight loss, $500 gift card.

• Team with the 2nd greatest percent weight loss, $100 gift card.

• All participants achieving a 10 lb. weight loss will be entered in a $100 gift card drawing.

The wrap-up celebration is scheduled for April 6. Winners will be announced, and trophies awarded.

For more information about the Great Hernando Weight Loss Challenge, contact Ann-Gayl Ellis at Ann-Gayl.Ellis@flhealth.gov or Angie@unitedwayhernando.org.