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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 started 27 Take Off Pounds Sensibly groups with 352 participants and conducted 19 Heart-to-Heart health education sessions, reaching 348 participants.

Win with Wellness logo Residents in northwest Illinois face increased risks of obesity and chronic disease due to unhealthy behaviors and 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 (WWW) is a multi-component, community-based 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), interviews, billboards, print ads, social media, direct mail (including newsletters and email campaigns), and brochures.

Food demonstrations were piloted in the fall of 2017 using the evidence-based Cooking Matters curriculum. Educational content focused on topics such as pre-planning meals for the week, freezing foods, and preparing healthy meals using shelf-stable foods.


Currently, there are 17 TOPS® groups (10 worksite groups, 7 community groups) with 179 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. Participants who completed one year of the program have seen on average a 2-point reduction in body mass index, from a mean of 33.1 to a mean of 31.1.

Thirty-nine Heart-to-Heart sessions have been conducted, with 348 participants (79% female, 21% male): 72% of respondents reported planning to make one or more changes in physical activity, and 83% of respondents reported planning to make one or more changes in eating habits as a result of attending a Heart-to-Heart session.

To date, WWW has implemented 5 community food demonstrations with 86 participants, and 84 of them completed satisfaction surveys. Among survey respondents:

  • 94% found the sessions useful
  • 89% said they were likely to use the recipes from the food demonstrations
  • 88% were interested in attending more food demonstrations
  • 77% described at least one planned behavior change, such as reducing salt, eating more vegetables, or planning meals ahead of time

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.

WWW held annual meetings with all participants to provide them feedback on the data and to celebrate their successes. It was also an opportunity to obtain feedback from participants about the program.

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
Date updated or reviewed
February 22, 2018

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.