TODAY   |  March 02, 2014

TODAY teams up with Baltimore to improve health

The weekend anchors recently shared a plan to partner with a city to “Shine and Light” on health and fitness. Hundreds wrote in, and after a tough decision-making process, the city of Baltimore was selected.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back on a sunday morning with a big announcement about the city we will be partnering with to shine a light on health and fitness for the people in the community.

>> we asked all of you to tell us why we should come to your city or your hometown and boy did you respond. we were overwhelmed, so touched by your comments. they made our decision-making process very difficult. but we were able to finally narrow it down to one. so drum roll please. here it is.

>> reporter: baltimore , home to a bustling waterfront, championship sports teams and a mean crab cake , a big city with a small town feel.

>> it's a tight-knit community and also ones that comes together.

>> reporter: and a city that's struggling. nearly a quarter of baltimore 's 620,000 residents live below the poverty line. in many areas that means health has taken a back seat. a major concern for mayor stephanie rawlings blake .

>> what are your biggest hurdles?

>> there's so many. when you take a look at the rate we have for asthma, cancer, diabetes, obesity, these are challenges where baltimore is above the national average.

>> reporter: 10% of the residents are diabetic. 25% of the population smokes and nearly a third are considered obese.

>> i'm hoping that we're able to motivate more people to get fit.

>> reporter: it's a hope people across the country share. when we announced our plan to shine a light on health and fitness , we were overwhelmed by the response and by the passion. so many people want to see a positive change in their community, people like baltimore native sade.

>> baltimore is a gem at heart. although it may not look like much, it's a lot of pride here.

>> reporter: she grew up in one of the poorest areas but came home determined to make a difference. that's why she wrote in and asked us to help her city get healthy.

>> baltimore needs all the help it can get.

>> reporter: the solutions are universal. baltimore is hoping the lead the way with the help and determination of its residents.

>> when you found out that it was thanks to you and some of your fellow baltimoreans that we were going to embark on this partnership, what did you say?

>> i was too excited. i was like are you serious?

>> reporter: change is already under way and it begins at the top.

>> i fought with weight my whole life. one day my daughter looked at me and said, mom, why is everyone in our family fat? i had to have a heart to heart and say is this the example i want to set for my daughter.

>> reporter: now she hopes to set an example for her city.

>> with the eyes of the country on us, baltimore shines.

>> i had such a great introduction to baltimore when i was down there earlier this week. over the next year we will all be spending a lot of time in baltimore which we're very excited about where we hope to get people moving more, sleeping more and better and making healthier choices. as you sarksd lester, we're all working on this, too.

>> one of our partners is baltimore affiliate w abl. jennifer, thanks for being with us.

>> good morning. thanks for having us.

>> we're thrilled to be doing this. you've worked in baltimore for a long time. you've seen some of the problems that were noted in erica's story there. what would you like to see changed and improved?

>> i'd like to see greater access to better foot choices. baltimore has a number of communities considered food deserts, places where they don't have access to a grocery store so they can't get readily available fresh fruits and vegetables and a good source of protein. exercise is also an issue. baltimore is a beautiful city. we have great hiking and biking trails, but violent crime is a real reality. in many neighborhoods, it's not safe to go out for a run or send your children outside to play. something i think a lot of people can relate to is lack of time. so many people are working extra jobs, extra shifts, after school activities . between work and everything going on with the children, people are too tired. letting things slide like making and keeping doctor's appointments. are you getting enough sleepless center?

>> no, i'm not. it sounds like the city is ready to embrace this. jennifer franciotti, look forward to seeing you.

>> thank you, lester.

>> what was key anti this, we've chosen baltimore , but i think all of us will be listening and sharing in this. it's not just a matter of heavy or thin, it's a matter of being healthy. i think that's really what our goal is.

>> that's exactly what it is and being healthy and good role models, too, for the next generation.

>> we're spending our time in baltimore . one of the things that's so important is that these are changes and these are efforts that people across the country are going to be able to apply in their own communities. we're really excited to be able to do this and start kicking things off and shine a light .