Skip Navigation.

Media Relations

UTHealth joins Shape Up Houston city-wide initiative

HOUSTON – (April 19, 2012) -The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) has joined Shape Up Houston, a local organization dedicated to a healthier Houston, to help reshape the health and wellness of Houston and UTHealth employees. The city-wide initiative kicked-off with a health rally today at the John P. McGovern Texas Medical Center Commons.

“Research has proven time and time again that the best thing we can do for ourselves is to be fit,” said Roberta Ness, M.D., MPH, dean of The University of Texas School of Public Health and vice president for innovation at UTHealth. “It not only reduces health problems but also increases the overall quality of our lives.”

In 2009, more than 60 percent of Texas adults were either overweight or obese, according to the Texas Department of State and Health Services. Shape Up Houston, funded by private, not-for-profit resources, is a community-wide effort dedicated to raising awareness about weight loss, nutrition and exercise.

“Our city faces no problem greater than obesity. While the numbers of overweight and obese adults and children in our community are growing at a record pace, the implications to our city, our economy and most of all to them, are staggering,” said Lan Bentsen, CEO of Shape Up Houston.

Thirty-two percent of Houston residents are considered obese, according to the Health of Houston Survey recently conducted by the Institute for Health Policy at UTHealth.

The Shape Up Houston kick-off event begins in the Texas Medical Center (TMC) with the invitation for 80,000 members of the medical community to be the first to demonstrate the outcome of a six-month healthier lifestyle.  Bentsen founded the organization after a change in lifestyle helped him lose more than 25 pounds, moving him from the overweight BMI (body mass index) to the healthy BMI category.

The kick-off will also include a farmers market, representatives from institutions sharing wellness information and fitness activities for TMC employees. Over the next year, each health institution will implement its own wellness education initiative with support from Shape Up Houston.  Activities will include events such as Rethink Your Drink, a No Fry Day and the Million Calorie Challenge.

As part of Shape Up Houston, the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living at the UT School of Public Health, part of UTHealth, will measure the effectiveness of the programs established by the institutions.

“This is about empowering people to understand how to help themselves and our city become healthier,” said Bentsen, who is also a member of the UTHealth Development Board. “This is about education and awareness that we not only can, but must take control of, for the sake of our collective health.” The city-wide initiative will eventually include business, religious and other leading organizations in the community later this year, he says 

The Shape Up Houston kick-off features leadership representatives from the Texas Medical Center, including Dr. Paul Klotman, president and CEO of Baylor College of  Medicine; Roberta Schwartz, executive vice president, The Methodist Hospital; Craig Cordola, CEO, Memorial Hermann, Texas Medical Center ; Susie Distefano, CEO, Children's Memorial Hermann Hospital; Carl Josehart, CEO, TIRR Memorial Hermann; Dr. Leon Leach, Executive vice president, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; David Lopez, CEO, Harris County Hospital District; Michelle Mahfouz, incoming COO, Texas Medical Center; Dr. Shreela Sharma, UTHealth; Dr. Margaret Van Bree, CEO, St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital;  and Mark Wallace, president and CEO, Texas Children’s Hospital.

“This is a vitally important issue and one that there is much talk, but very little action around solving. We intend to keep it at the forefront of conversation over the course of the next year,” said Bentsen,

About Shape Up Houston

Shape Up Houston is an ambitious, forward acting, community education campaign to increase awareness and encourage action surrounding the unsustainable level of obesity and its impact on the health and wellbeing of our community. Shape Up Houston is advocating for a lifelong change in lifestyle as opposed to a short-term diet.