UMKC researchers conduct pilot weight-management program for the U.S. military

Despite the assumption that active-duty military members are in normal weight and fit, the U.S. military is struggling with escalating rates of overweight and obesity. Studies have long shown that the increasing numbers of people in our society who are overweight or obese often suffer from reduced social status, reduced employment opportunities, and increased morbidity and mortality. However, the costs and the logistics of implementing and maintaining effective weight management programs are often problematic. Researchers at the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), along with colleagues at the National Institutes of Health, the University of Texas and Baylor University, may have an answer.

Rafia Rasu, Ph.D. Assistant Professor of Pharmacy Practice and Administration at the UMKC School of Pharmacy led a study designed to determine whether a behavioral Internet treatment (BIT) weight management program for U.S. Air Force personnel is a viable, cost-effective option (or complement) to in-person weight management programs. The results of the study were published in the April issue of the American Journal of Managed Care.

“Despite the amount of literature on the effectiveness of in-person weight management programs, there is a lack of information on the economical effectiveness of Internet-based behavioral weight management programs,” Rasu said.

The researchers recruited a total of 446 active-duty members (224 women and 222 men) from three Air Force bases around the country and assigned half of them to a “usual care” in-person weight management program and the other half to a combination usual care and BIT program. Their results showed that, based on the costs of the programs factored into the amount of weight lost by the study participants, the BIT program provided a significant cost and results benefit.

Rasu believes their results could be translated to programs designed for the general public and could be a valuable and accessible preventive tool.

“This program is especially attractive considering its flexibility and improved retention rates and outcomes compared to pharmacotherapy,” Rasu said. “Cost-effective, Internet-based behavioral interventions for weight management could provide a valuable tool for preventive care, offering a viable option for improving the present and future health of individuals and society.”

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