01/14/2014 03:50 EST | Updated 03/16/2014 05:59 EDT

Moose Jaw Tackles Obesity With Free Program For 1,000 Residents

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The small city of Moose Jaw, Sask., has a big problem with weight — 63 per cent of its residents are either overweight or obese.

That's not out of the ordinary in Saskatchewan, which has the highest rate of overweight residents in Western Canada.

Now, people in Moose Jaw are trying to do something about it. 

A private company called Alliance Wellness and Rehabilitation, along with the local YWCA, is launching an ambitious free program designed to help 1,000 Moose Javians slim down. That's 20 per cent of the city's obese population.

Participants have to be between 18 and 64 and a body mass index greater than 30, which is the definition of obesity.

"Governments are good at setting goals, but they are not so good at actual programming or actually accomplishing the goals," said Dr. Mark Lemstra, president of Alliance.

"This is an example of the private sector and the not-for-profit sector working together to accomplish goals set by government."

Each participant gets 98 free sessions with personal trainers, dietitians and behaviour therapists.

Every family doctor in the city has agreed to be part of the program, which will run until 2016.

Participants will receive 72 personal training workouts, 12 dietary sessions, 12 cognitive behaviour therapy sessions and two fitness tests.

The program has the backing of Deb Higgins, mayor of the city of 33,000. She says she'll try to lose weight to set an example.

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