The Prince George's health department is beginning a campaign to improve the health of county residents.

The effort, which will be formally unveiled at a community and business recruitment meeting Wednesday, is aimed at showing residents that they can become healthier by making simple changes in what they eat and how they exercise.

Frederick J. Corder, the county's top health officer and former head of the pediatrics department at Prince George's Hospital Center, said his department is preparing to unveil a series of programs and community partnerships as part of the Center for Healthy Lifestyle Initiatives, or "CHILI." He noted that the county's largely African American population experiences a higher proportion of serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and stroke than other residents. And many of those cases, he said, can be prevented.

Corder, who is leading the campaign along with James Dula, the county's deputy chief administrative officer for health and human services, said the campaign is a new approach to health care by the health department, which has been more focused on treatment of illness rather than prevention.

"A lot of the leading causes of death in the county . . . are related to lifestyle issues," Corder said. "We are trying to teach people how to have healthy lifestyles."

As part of the effort, the health department last week gave out free pedometers to people who attended a two-mile walk Saturday morning in Largo. The event attracted more than 70 people, including many county officials, despite dreary weather.

"Some of us think we are really walking a lot," Corder said in an interview this week. But a pedometer is more precise than personal impressions, and when people use them, they often realize they should add more steps until they reach the recommended 10,000 steps per day (about five miles). "We tell them to park father away . . . and change how they look at their activities for the day," he said.

Among the other teaching tools Corder and his department plan to use:

* A flier distribution at Home Depot in Capitol Heights from 8 to 11 a.m. Saturday with a special emphasis on men's health issues to help unveil "Men's Health Week."

* A "teen summit" to be held 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. June 19 at Drew Freeman Middle School in Suitland, which will include information about drug abuse, relationships and sexually transmitted diseases, among other issues. Teenagers will compete for prizes in a rap song and dance concert that will use the information provided by the health department.

* A "chronic disease" summit in the fall that Corder hopes will pull together the dozens of community, health care and religious groups to help spread information about healthy lifestyles.

Corder said the campaign is part of County Executive Jack B. Johnson's effort to foster "livable communities" in Prince George's. He said the health department had not received additional funds for the campaign and its programs but did obtain a $65,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente, the health care company, and is applying for various federal grants.

For more information about the county's healthy lifestyle campaign, call 301-883-7851. The kickoff event will be held 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday at the Wayne K. Curry Sports & Learning Complex, 8001 Sheriff Rd., Landover.