A telephone-based weight management program, as part of a worksite wellness program, helped overweight and obese individuals to become more active, eat better, lose weight and improve their overall health, according to research published in the American Journal of Health Promotion (2011; 25 , 186–89). Other studies have shown that telephone coaching is successful in producing initial weight loss, but few researchers have tracked subjects for more than 6 months after a program has ended. The purpose of this study was to determine the long-term impact of using telephone-based coaching to achieve weight loss and promote healthy behaviors among people recruited in the workplace.
Researchers from StayWell Health Management in Saint Paul, Minnesota, drew from data collected from 10 companies that offered comprehensive programs between 2004 and 2006. Investigators identified 55,963 workers as eligible for the weight management program, based on individual responses to health risk assessments (HRAs). From that pool, 1,298 participants enrolled in the coaching program and had at least one phone call with a health coach; 1,213 participants completed the program. All subjects provided baseline and follow-up HRAs. Average duration of the health coaching program was 250 days. Workers who finished the program received at least three, and up to five, coaching calls.
Program participants worked with health coaches to identify barriers, set goals, develop action plans and gain social support to establish and maintain health-promoting behavioral changes. Forty-eight percent of those who completed the program and 47% of those who didn’t lost weight. Completers lost an average of nearly 3 pounds versus 1 pound for those who didn’t finish. Subjects sustained their weight loss for more than 7 months.
“When we think of successful weight loss, we think of losing a considerable amount of weight, but a more reasonable goal for most of us is to seek small and sustainable changes with goals of healthy eating and exercise. Research has shown that even a modest weight loss can have clinical benefits and this study supports these findings,” said Erin Seaverson, MPH, research manager at StayWell Health Management. Limitations of the study included the fact that participants reported their own outcomes. Also, it was unclear what people who dropped out of the program did next. More research was recommended.