The Flavor of Health: GlaxoSmith-Kline’s anti-obesity initiative

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Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmith-Kline P.L.C. is collaborating with leading local restaurants to promote weight management in African-American and Hispanic communities. Dubbed “Explore the Flavor of Health,” the initiative recently was launched in New York City with an all-day, fun-filled event as its centerpiece.

In the United States, 69.6 percent of African-American adults and 73.4 percent of Hispanic adults are reported as overweight or obese, putting those communities at increased risk of such serious conditions as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Under the direction of GlaxoSmithKline’s Multicultural Council on Weight Management, “Explore the Flavor of Health” features renowned African-American and Hispanic specialists in health, fitness and nutrition who instruct attendees on how to take on a healthier lifestyle through weight management and empower them with practical tools to do so.

Six African-American and Hispanic restaurants came together last November in New York City for the first “Explore the Flavor of Health” event. Held at the Police Athletic League Armory in Harlem, the free event attracted nearly 700 people who received instruction on the correct ways to read nutrition labels; how to understand their body mass index, or BMI, which measures body fat based on height and weight; and the appropriate movements to foster gradual weight loss. Attendees also took part in live cooking demonstrations in order to learn the proper way to prepare healthy dishes.

Valentine J. Burroughs, M.D., associate professor of medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City, and Niva Lubin-Johnson, M.D., senior attending physician at Mercy Hospital and Medical Center in Chicago, were on hand to explain how to understand the BMI chart and how to measure their own BMI and keep track of how it changes as they become more fit.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has an easy BMI tool on its Web site at www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/bmi/.

Attendees at the November event received colorful punch cards that were specially designed to use as calorie and fat counters as they moved from one restaurant station to the next. They were instructed to have the card stamped by each restaurant representative before sampling the restaurant’s healthy dish, which contained less than 100 calories and 3 grams of fat per dish.

Participating restaurants included Billie’s Black, a soul food restaurant; Don Pedro’s, a Latin-Caribbean restaurant; La Fonda Boricua, which offers homestyle Puerto Rican cooking; La Fusta, an Argentinean restaurant; Melba’s, a southern comfort venue; and Sylvia’s, a soul food restaurant. The restaurants pledged to continue to offer their customers healthy dining options.

The Explore the Flavor of Health initiative also includes a bilingual Web site at www.exploretheflavorofhealth.com, with healthy recipes and practical tips on eating and living healthy; a downloadable brochure distributed through the Interamerican College of Physicians and Surgeons and the National Medical Association.