Behind the successful media business and cable television programming millions of viewers see every day on Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks lies the BET Foundation, a nonprofit organization founded in 2003 to promote healthy lifestyles among African Americans and raise awareness about minority health disparities.
"We looked at the health disparities and concerns of the BET audience, and obesity was among the primary issues we wanted to address," said Lynda Dorman, the Foundation's executive director.
The BET Foundation primarily targets African American women, hoping that they will share with their families what they learn. Each year the BET Foundation runs a variety of programs and initiatives under its umbrella campaign, A Healthy BET, a multitiered health promotions campaign and outreach effort aimed at eradicating African American obesity.
Its programs include A Healthy BET Fitness Challenge, a national 12-week fitness contest that partners selected participants with nutrition and fitness experts, and rewards those who achieve healthful lifestyle goals with an array of great prize incentives.
The BET Foundation also hosts the Women's Health Forum, a free health promotion event focused on three program principles: Eating Better, Moving More and Positive Thinking.
The forum includes expert instruction, a master fitness class, free health screenings, panel discussions, workshops that address a variety of health concerns, a healthful luncheon and top entertainment.
Another BET Foundation program is the Summer Camp for Girls, a residential camp program designed to educate and empower girls ages 10-15 to adopt healthful lifestyle choices by learning the importance of proper nutrition, exercise and positive body image through a health-related curriculum.
Since its inception, the BET Foundation has touched the lives of millions of African Americans.
"I met one woman who was trying to gain weight to qualify for gastric bypass surgery. We selected her for the Fitness Challenge," said Dorman. "During the challenge, she began a personalized program that included proper nutrition, regular exercise and setting healthy lifestyle goals. She lost 33 pounds in four months and gained a new perspective on what it means to live a healthy life from the inside out.
"The BET Foundation has many success stories, and we will continue efforts to eradicate obesity and related health disparities by collaborating with BET Networks and community groups to deliver a healthy lifestyles message," said Dorman.