The municipality of Narón in northwestern Spain has launched a pioneering healthy lifestyle initiative aimed at helping its 39,426 inhabitants shed a collective 100,000 kilos over two years.
A healthy diet, regular exercise and medical checkups form the basis of the programme, which sees the entire community share the same goal of losing weight in a healthy way.
Residents can follow plans laid out by local health centres, while restaurants will offer diners healthy menus.
Carlos Piñeiro, the doctor in charge of the project, told Euronews the community was focused on getting healthy rather than losing the target 100,000 kilos.
Six out of 10 residents of Narón are overweight.
Obesity in the autonomous community of Galicia where Narón is located affects 19.18 percent of the population, compared to 17.03 percent of the Spanish population on average, according to the Galician Institute of Statistics.
However, Piñeiro insisted the programme was not launched because the problem is worse in Galicia than in other Spanish or European municipalities, but to curb the global trend of obesity and to combat diseases.
"In 10-year-olds, obesity has gone up two points and overweight five points, which increases the likelihood of those suffering from chronic diseases," he said. "We want to correct this.”
The plan, which was launched on January 25, aims to donate the equivalent of all kilos lost in food to local NGO Solidarity Resource Center Narón.
On the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, the traditional cuisine of Narón is based on seafood such as clams, hake, turbot and oysters, which are all being incorporated into the diet.
"Patients are going to adopt an Atlantic diet," explained Piñeiro.
The local restaurants are also joining the initiative by incorporating more seafood into their menus.
"It's nothing new to be taught how to eat well," Mariano Ferreiro, mayor of Narón, told Euronews.
He added that the plan is not about going hungry but about learning to look at labels on products and cook healthily.
‘Children are key’
"If the children maintain an adequate and active lifestyle, they will convince 90% of the parents," said Piñeiro.
To achieve this, youngsters in the community will study the orchards there and look at the nutrition in the food grown around them.
Children will also be encouraged to look into the causes of obesity.
Also central to the plan is encouraging students to ditch car rides to schools and opt to walk or cycle instead.
According to Piñeiro, 600 children already get to and from school actively, while the town hopes this reaches 4,000 in the future.
To ensure that security does not interfere with physical activity, children have been provided with a location bracelet that alerts parents when they arrive at school, while local police monitor the trips.
There are also specific programmes for people over the age of 70, including gymnastics, therapeutic dance, swimming and 8-kilometre walks.
Piñeiro claims that hospital admissions for chronic diseases of people in this age group are down 38%.
If the project continues and attracts more participants, Piñeiro believes the community could save €1.8 million a year in medical expenses.
"Here we all want the same, we are a community."
The initiative in Narón rests upon the collaboration of all sectors of the population, from politicians and doctors, to academics, neighbours associations and police officers.
"We have a healthy competitiveness to improve the quality of life," said the doctor.
"The population of Narón is like a living laboratory that is building its future," he added.
"We live together in a city, to share together day to day, and be better together."