A student at the UNC School of Medicine has created an award-winning faith-based obesity prevention program to provide exercise and diet modification to better improve the health standards of the Durham-Chapel Hill community.

As a third-year medical student, wife and mother of three, Milele Bynum created the nutrition and walking program, “Walking in Faith,” as a part of the Albert Schweitzer fellowship.

Bynum told WCHL she was inspired by the challenges of obesity in her own life to begin this project to help those in the African-American community dealing with weight and health issues.

“It’s a problem that is really in the African-American community,” Bynum said. “Obesity has so many other health consequences from diabetes to cancer and heart disease and I’ve seen so many people in my family affected by the consequences of obesity.”

Bynum will receive the Community Outreach Award from the American Academy of Family Physicians, which is granted to family medicine residents and students who serve in community roles or projects to improve health care of populations.

“Walking in Faith” was started in conjunction with First Calvary Baptist Church in Durham. Almost 30 members of the church signed up for the eight-week program, and began nutritional sessions coupled with a weekday walking program. Bynum says the project produced positive results, as almost 70 percent of the participants reached the 150 minute weekly physical activity recommendation as well as reduced BMI and blood pressures.

With all participants identifying at the program’s start as overweight or obese, they have now developed a Healthy Eating Policy through the church’s Health and Wellness Ministry. Bynum and First Calvary have plans to expand this program to other communities by creating a curriculum through the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Bynum has brought the fight against obesity into her own home, teaching her children the importance of physical activity and adequate water-intake.

“Being a mother of three, I saw the importance of getting my children involved,” Bynum said. “Sometimes they didn’t want to come (workout), but they would come and walk with us every time we went and I thought that was important because if they see you doing it as a parent, then they’ll see that it is important.”

When trying to losing weight, Bynum reminds those who dare to make the lifestyle change to “celebrate small gains as they lead to big rewards.”

“I’ve really gained that it’s not easy, it’s something I’ve been struggling with my entire life but understand you don’t have to go out and run five miles a day. Just do anything to increase physical activity 15 minutes a day whenever it can be.”