My brother and I read the letter about gastric bypass surgery at MUSC changing the life of one Charleston resident, but wanted to recognize another program at MUSC that is reversing diabetes, lowering blood pressure, enhancing flexibility, improving muscular strength and cardiovascular fitness and reducing both short- and long-term health care costs for hundreds of people in the Lowcountry every year.

This program is the Healthy Charleston Challenge and with the total cost of the program being only $300 we feel it is both an excellent and effective option for folks who choose to get healthy. We finished the program in November and had an incredible combined weight loss in excess of 105 pounds.

This was accomplished in a 10-week period with a focus on clean eating and exercise. Not only have we lost an amount of weight that either exceeds or is commensurate with bariatric surgery -- we did it without surgery, which has a high morbidity rate and life-threatening complications for 5 percent of patients.

There is no magic bullet, but there is a health and weight loss solution for any of us who are willing to follow this program. MUSC is an asset to our community and the Healthy Charleston Challenge should be a model for safe and effective health and lifestyle changes for the citizens of our state. The S.C. Legislature recently approved over $2 million for bariatric surgery for 100 state employees. What to do about the other half a million or so of our obese brothers and sisters? Will the state provide billions of tax dollars for bariatric surgery for all of us?

Perhaps it should be a mandate that potential surgery patients first participate in a program such as the one offered at MUSC. We can't say enough about the idea that most cases of obesity may be cured with a little old-fashioned wisdom. Janis Newton has a bad habit of quoting Lou Holtz, and one of her favorites is "No one ever drowned in their own sweat."

We are just a brother and sister who both suffered from all the problems related to obesity for over 20 years. We were both amazed by the amount of weight we lost, but there is nothing remarkable about our success; there are many others who have been through this program and achieved similar success.

We would like to see physicians, insurance companies and the state of South Carolina consider an approach of dietary change and exercise before they spend our tax dollars on a surgery that has proven effective in weight loss but will not deliver the same overall health improvements that we achieved in this program.

We'd like to see South Carolina be a leader in the country when it comes to leading healthy lives instead of bottom-feeding like we do in so many areas. Our story is of two very average middle-aged people who chose to make a change. MUSC's HCC program provided us the platform and the knowledge to effect these changes.

Anyone who makes the choice can achieve similar results, not with expensive and dangerous surgery that will keep you out of work from two to six weeks, but with just some focus, discipline, restraint and a lot of sweat. Lastly, we had a blast, thanks to Janis Newton and her staff at MUSC.

And we are now out stimulating South Carolina's economy as we are both on shopping sprees buying new clothes.

Linda and Tony Page

Ben Sawyer Boulevard

Mount Pleasant