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Win with Wellness

  • Need: To reduce risk of obesity and chronic disease in rural northwest Illinois.
  • Intervention: Win with Wellness encourages participants in community settings and at different workplaces to make small, incremental changes to their diets and activity levels through a multi-component approach.
  • Results: Since 2015, the two participating counties have hosted 16 weight-loss support groups with 283 active participants and 21 education sessions with 330 attendees.

Win with Wellness logo Residents in northwest Illinois face increased risks of obesity and chronic disease due to unhealthy behaviors and to limited access to physical activity opportunities and healthy foods.

University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford researchers compared county data to overall state data from the Illinois Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and found that residents of Stephenson County and Carroll County show higher rates of diabetes, heart disease, and current smoking than the state average. The premature age-adjusted mortality rate is markedly higher in both of these counties, especially Carroll.

In addition, these researchers found that a significant proportion of the population in both counties is overweight or obese. In Stephenson County, 66% of adults were obese or overweight in 2015; in Carroll County, the percentage was 69%.

Designed to reduce obesity and chronic disease risk for adult men and women in these counties, Win with Wellness is a multi-component approach that promotes healthy lifestyles through:

  • Take Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS®), a weight-loss support group for adult men and women
  • Heart-to-Heart education sessions for community groups
  • Media campaign

The program is a partnership consisting of the following organizations:

Win with Wellness is funded by a 2015-2018 Federal Office of Rural Health Policy (FORHP) Rural Health Care Services Outreach grant.

Services offered

TOPS® membership is provided through the FORHP grant. Established in 1948, TOPS® is a weight-loss support group for adults that focuses on small changes participants can make to their diets and activity levels. Group sessions held weekly in community settings include private weigh-ins and professionally prepared, informational chapter programs, featuring up-to-date information on nutrition, exercise, and healthy lifestyles. The program provides positive reinforcement and motivation to adhere to food and exercise programs.

Heart-to-Heart presentations are community health education sessions led by health educators. These presentations emphasize small, practical changes that attendees can make to their lifestyles.

The media campaign features radio ads (available on the Win with Wellness website) and interviews, billboards, print ads, social media, direct mail (including newsletters and email campaigns), and brochures.


Currently, there are 16 TOPS® groups (10 worksite groups for employees, 6 groups open to the community) with 283 active participants as a result of Win with Wellness. The worksite groups are located in schools, healthcare organizations, and a community college. The TOPS® curriculum was translated into Spanish to accommodate Spanish-speaking participants.

Twenty-one Heart-to-Heart sessions with a total of 351 participants have been conducted. Efforts to attract new organizations/community settings to start TOPS® groups and Heart-to-Heart sessions continue.

The multi-media campaign took place over a 6-month period from June to November 2016, and Win with Wellness was featured in a January 2017 Rural Health Leadership Radio podcast.


Three worksite groups ended due to participants' changing schedules. Participants struggled to find a meeting time that worked for everyone, especially in workplaces that rely on shiftwork or on-call schedules.

Another barrier is identifying and reaching out to new groups in order to create and establish new TOPS® groups.


Bring people from multiple sectors to the table in the planning and development stages, and consider incorporating sectors that are not directly related to health. For example, if community members want to walk outside but have safety concerns, police officers could volunteer to exercise with them.

Program coordinators held 6 focus groups and 15 stakeholder interviews to see what the community members themselves wanted out of this program. Participants feel more engaged if the program is more tailored to their community's unique needs.

Contact Information
Manorama M. Khare, PhD, Research Assistant Professor
University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford
Win with Wellness Facebook page
Community engagement and volunteerism
Obesity and weight control
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
States served
Date added
February 27, 2017

Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.