Industry consultant is taking new weight-loss centers global.

WAKEFIELD, R.I. - Industry consultant Casey Conrad has announced the creation and opening of a national chain of centers called Healthy Inspirations, Weight Loss and Lifestyle Centers.

The first corporately owned center opened recently in El Paso, Texas. Two other centers, which are licensees of the turnkey program, opened last month within existing health clubs. Conrad plans on opening another location in New England by late Novem-ber, with a projection of 10 centers in the next 24 months along with numerous licensees nationally and, eventually, internationally.

The Healthy Inspirations program combines nutritional counseling, exercise, and massage and relaxation techniques. The program guarantees clients that they will lose between 2 to 3 pounds per week safely. The program also helps clients reach and maintain long-term goals.

"There are two primary reasons weight-loss programs have failed in the club environment, and they are inseparable," Conrad said. "One, the programs have been dependent upon highly educated nutritionists, creating a dependency between [them] and the long-term success of the program. Second, [the people] who are running the program are traditionally not salespeople, but rather are educators.

"Unfortunately, substantial sales figures will only come from a program that revolves around a sales-based system, which is exactly what Healthy Inspirations does. We find qualified employees who can sell, and teach them how to follow the guidelines, rules and educational pieces established by a nutritionist. The result is having a full staff that can sell and make the entire program run so if one person leaves, it doesn't kill the program."

- The American Cancer Society-California Division (ACS), American Heart Association (AHA), California Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAHPERD), California Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Coalition (CVD), Center for Public Health Advocacy, National Stroke Association (NSA) and both the Northern and Southern California Public Health Associations (NCPHA and SCPHA) have joined the Berkeley-based Public Health Institute (PHI) in asking the California governor to take action to resolve the obesity crisis.

The call for action comes in response to the latest Behavioral Risk Surveillance Survey System, an ongoing survey of more than 4,000 California adults. The survey found that in 1999 nearly 53 percent of California adults were overweight or obese. According to the PHI, weight problems claim the lives of more than 33,000 Californians each year, and are projected to cost the state $6 billion in direct health care costs annually.

- Bell Atlantic Yellow Pages and the Philadelphia Mayor's Commission on Literacy launched "Fit to Read," a program created to encourage parents and children to develop themselves both mentally and physically. The program will provide families with increased access to books and educational information. Also, each month, a speaker will go to different sites throughout Philadelphia to discuss topics on physical fitness and nutrition for parents and children.

This program could provide an opportunity for Philadelphia area clubs interested in contributing more to family fitness.

- IDEA, the Health & Fitness Center, has created the IDEA Personal Fitness Trainer (PFT) Recognition System, which the association describes as an "impartial system for recognizing qualified personal trainers." The system's goal is to separate outstanding trainers from unqualified ones.

There are four levels of recognition within the system:

IDEA Professional PFT: This is the most basic level of achievement within the system. To qualify, a person must hold a current recognized personal trainer certification/certificate or a bachelor's degree in a fitness-related field or be a certified athletic trainer or licensed physical therapist. In addition, the person must sign the IDEA code of ethics, be covered by liability insurance and be CPR-certified.

IDEA Advanced PFT: To qualify, a person must meet the same criteria as an IDEA Professional PFT, plus he needs to have attained 15 hours of continuing education over the past two years or hold a master's degree in a fitness-related field.

IDEA Elite PFT: To qualify, a person must meet the same criteria as an IDEA Advanced PFT, plus he needs to have at least three years of experience working as a personal trainer and provide letters of reference from two professional colleagues and two current clients.

IDEA Master PFT: The highest level of achievement within the IDEA PFT Recognition System. To qualify, a person must meet the same criteria as an IDEA Elite PFT, plus he needs to have at least five years of experience working as a personal trainer and performed community and industry service within the past year.