“Weight loss of as little as 5% to 7% can reduce obesity-associated co-morbidities,” UVA public health researcher Becca Krukowski, one of the principal investigators, said. “Although lifestyle interventions successfully produce weight losses of this magnitude, access to weight management programs is limited in rural areas. This study will examine how digital interventions can be optimized for delivering weight loss programs to rural populations.”
The Obesity Epidemic
More than 130 million Americans are overweight or obese, and people living in rural areas experience significantly higher rates of both obesity and chronic illnesses associated with obesity. Many rural areas are also beset by an increasing lack of access to health care resources. So finding better ways to help rural residents manage their weight could have big benefits for both individuals and society.
Krukowski, of UVA’s Department of Public Health Sciences, notes that there is already some evidence that adding a human component to digital obesity treatment programs can improve their effectiveness. She hopes her new trial will offer answers on the best “package” of treatment components.
Over the next three years, she and her collaborators will enroll and provide the iREACH program for a total of 616 men and women, with the goal of determining which approach, or which combination of approaches, is most effective at promoting weight loss and subsequent weight maintenance. They will look at factors that contribute to weight loss success, such as social support, accountability and problem solving. They will also consider elements such as sex, race/ethnicity and age, as well as the costs of the intervention components.
The iREACH program has just started recruiting for the first wave, which will start right after the new year – perfect timing for New Year’s resolutions related to improving health.
Improving America’s Health
Ultimately, Krukowski and her team hope their research will lead to optimized online weight loss programs that will be more accessible to rural residents than in-person programs. That would increase the public health benefits of the programs and will inform public health policy decisions, such as whether the programs should be covered by Medicare, Medicaid and other health insurance companies.
“The iREACH study is an exciting opportunity for rural residents to have access to a cutting-edge behavioral weight loss program and also contribute to science,” Krukowski said.
The trial is IRB No. HSR220408. For information, visit www.ireachstudy.org or call 1-866-271-7217.
The five-year NIH grant, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is No. R01DK135227.
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