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In some districts, cash prizes for staff weight loss

This mobile Weigh and Win kiosk moves around to different Denver Public School buildings.
This mobile Weigh and Win kiosk moves around to different Denver Public School buildings.

Several Colorado school districts offer a program that rewards overweight adult participants—whether staff members or local residents–with cash prizes for losing weight.

Called “Weigh and Win,” the program is popping up in districts like Denver, Cherry Creek, Boulder Valley, Canon City, and Weld 6, and at libraries, hospitals and recreation centers across the state. In school districts, it’s typically seen as a staff wellness tool, though in some cases parents and community members are invited to enroll as well.

The centerpiece of Weigh and Win are kiosks where anyone 18 or over can sign up, step on a scale and get a full-length photograph taken. Participants then have access to an array of online or text-based services ranging from health coaching to grocery lists and meal plans.

Those with body-mass indices of 25 or over—the threshold for being overweight–are eligible for cash awards if they shed pounds between quarterly weigh-ins. Those with lower body-mass indices are entered into prize drawings if they do things like open Weigh and Win emails or refer friends to the program.

While Weigh and Win is free to individual participants, it’s not a non-profit organization. It was launched in 2011 by parent company incentaHEALTH and its kiosks cost up to $4,250 per year. Funding from the “DPS Health Agenda 2015″ grant covers that expense for Denver Public Schools.

Weigh and Win is contracted by Kaiser to deliver the program and earns money through annual per-participant fees paid by Kaiser.

Mandy Hydock, director of finance in Weld 6, has earned a total of $105 from Weigh and Win for losing 80 pounds over the last year. While she’s also consulted with a nutritionist unaffiliated with Weigh and Win, she said the program’s daily tips and reminders help her stay on track too.

“Any time people are incentivized with money, it helps keep you going,” she said. “It’s just human nature.”

Colleen Grandis, staff wellness coordinator for Denver Public Schools, said the program is simple and engaging for employees, and could eventually help the district save on health care costs.

“It was a great opportunity to just extend our wellness program,” she said.

In Colorado, more than half of adults are overweight or obese and more than a quarter of children ages 2 to 14 are overweight or obese. The rates are even higher for blacks and Hispanics.

DPS got a mobile “Weigh and Win” kiosk in 2013, but recent technology upgrades have put a greater focus on it this year. The kiosk–essentially a large sign, a scale and a tablet– regularly moves to different locations around the district, with stops this week at the transportation department building and Martin Luther King Jr. Early College.

All told, more than 650 people, including some community members, have signed up for Weigh and Win through DPS. Statewide, more than 60,300 people are enrolled.

While students can’t use the kiosks unless they are 18, Weigh and Win officials say the healthy habits promoted by the program have a trickle-down effect.

“If the parents utilize the program, it will help the children adopt these behaviors,” said Kaytee Long, health promotion manager at Weigh and Win.

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