BY LENA MITCHELL

Daily Journal Corinth Bureau

BOONEVILLE - Taking off weight and constructing a healthier lifestyle often are easier with the help of friends.

That's the idea behind the "It's My Health... One Step At A Time" program that kicks off in Prentiss and Itawamba counties Monday, said Extension area health agent Linda Wilemon.

"It's patterned after Weigh Down West Point' that was so successful last year," Wilemon said.

So far, 24 five-member teams in Prentiss County have signed up.

The number of teams from Northeast Mississippi Community College has not been reported yet, but an information session is being held at 11 a.m. today for faculty and students.

"The original deadline to sign up was last Friday, but we've extended the deadline to Wednesday," Wilemon said. Health screenings and weigh-ins in Booneville are Thursday and Saturday.

This free 12-week pilot program is presented by the Extension Service, Baptist Memorial Hospital and NEMCC .

Teams give participants a support system and others to provide encouragement as they work to develop better nutrition habits and incorporate exercise into their lifestyles.

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Following West Point's lead

The West Point program saw 820 people - out of 980 who signed up - complete the 12-week program and drop 5,612 pounds.

Its success has led other states and regions, even the National Rural Health Service, to adopt the strategy, Wilemon said.

Dorothy Ruth Moore of West Point, 55, was one of the participants.

"I think it's a great program," Moore said while on her way to the Wellness Center in West Point for a lunchtime workout. "It was just great for me. My long-term goal is to lose 60 pounds, and so far I've lost 30. I weighed 244 when I started."

The weight loss is taking longer than she expected, but Moore said she's also lowered her blood pressure and felt increased energy.

Contact Lena Mitchell at 287-9822 or lena.mitchell@djournal.com

It's My Health... One Step At A Time

- For Prentiss County information, call Prentiss County Extension at (662) 728-5631.

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