Diagnosis Prompts Weight Loss Efforts in Short Term

DURHAM, NC – Patients may rush to start a weight loss program upon diagnosis of an obesity-related disease but often are unable to sustain the effort on that basis alone, according to a new VA study.

The study, published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, focused on mostly male VA patients to determine what motivated them to join MOVE!, the motivational weight loss program offered to veterans at no cost since 2008.1

For the study, Durham, NC, VAMC researchers used data from more than 45,000 veterans who received services in 2010 and who had BMIs higher than 30. The participants had been diagnosed in the previous six months with co-morbidities of obesity such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease and sleep apnea.

According to the results, veterans who had joined the MOVE! program were two to three times more likely to have had a recent obesity-related diagnosis than those who didn’t enter the program. Patients with recent weight gains of 3% or greater also were more likely to join.

“A key takeaway message for providers is that the onset of a weight-related health condition may provide an opportunity to broach the subject of weight loss and discuss the potential benefits of joining an evidence-supported behavioral weight loss program,” said lead author Megan McVay, PhD, of the Durham, NC, VAMC. “In the VA, such a program is available at no cost to veterans, but, fortunately, other healthcare settings are beginning to offer these programs for low or no cost as well.”

The problem uncovered by the study is that, although gaining weight and new disease diagnoses motivated veterans to join the program, most failed to continue. Only 15% participated in more than eight sessions in six months.

“While researchers have examined other factors that may be related to sustained attendance at weight loss programs, we still have more to learn about what gets in the way of sustained engagement and how to help individuals overcome [the] barriers,” McVay explained.

1 McVay MA, Yancy WS Jr, Vijan S, Van Scoyoc L, Neelon B, Voils CI, Maciejewski ML. Obesity-related health status changes and weight-loss treatment utilization. Am J Prev Med. 2014 May;46(5):465-72. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2013.11.018. PubMedPMID: 24745636.

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