Health programs that help obese people set specific weight-loss goals and track their progress toward them are significantly more likely to be successful than conventional programs – particularly among high-risk, low-income individuals.
That’s the chief finding of a new study, led by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis that found programs that promote lifestyle changes and healthy behaviors for obese patients resulted in modest weight loss.
The study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, noted such programs are not widely available in many U.S. primary care settings, particularly for low-income patients who seek care at community health centers.
"We undertook this study in federally qualified health centers, requiring minimal primary care time, so that we might develop a strategy that could be easily implemented through the broad range of health centers that receive support from the federal government," said researcher Dr. Graham A. Colditz.. "The great recession added to the strains under which our inner city, low-income participants were living. Despite this, we managed to retain 86 percent of the patients through the entire study."
The two-year study included 365 obese patients receiving treatment for high blood pressure in Boston. More than 70 percent were African-American, 68 percent were female and 33 percent never graduated high school.
The patients were assigned to receive either usual care or to participate in a program that promoted weight loss by setting goals to change behavior, self-monitoring online or with an automated phone system, counseling sessions and group support sessions.
Compared to those receiving usual care, the alternative program’s participants lost more weight and managed their blood pressure better after six months.
This study was funded, in part, by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and the National Cancer Institute.