Lose-Now-NC: Feasibility of a large group format community weight loss program coupled with Internet support

In North Carolina, cancer is the leading cause of death. Obesity is also a widespread problem with 65% of NC adults overweight or obese in 2009. Obesity has been linked to risk of several cancers, most notably breast and colon cancer, and also to decreased survival rates. Helping adults lose weight is a key strategy to reduce the cancer burden statewide. Fortunately, modest weight losses of only 5 to 10 percent of total body weight have been shown to improve health and are achievable with behavioral lifestyle modification programs involving intensive face-to-face treatments. However, these interventions are costly, due to frequent contact and low provider to participant ratio, and are not widely accessible to the general population in need of treatment. Internet programs provide an opportunity to reach a wider audience, but research has shown that these programs are most effective when they include some human counselor interaction. Delivering a monthly face-to-face treatment in much larger groups (approximately 200 or more), coupled with an Internet program between sessions, may represent an effective approach that can be disseminated for achieving weight loss in NC communities.

Findings LoseNowNC successfully recruited a diverse population, and weight changes in both groups were significant over time (-3.69% of initial body weight). Findings suggest that delivery of the treatment in a potentially more disseminable and cost effective format (larger treatment groups) did not undermine the efficacy of a group treatment compared to delivering it in a smaller group, common to the behavioral treatment literature. The Lose Now NC study showed that we could recruit a racially diverse group of study participants in a community based program and successfully deliver a low intensity weight loss program that resulted in overall weight losses that approached clinical significance. The web program is currently being used in a larger physician-referred weight loss study.

Geographic Area(s): Mecklenburg & Cabarrus counties

Research Team: Deborah Tate, PhD, associate professor of health behavior and nutrition (principal investigator); Cathy Melvin, PhD; Carmen Samuel-Hodge, PhD, RD, research assistant professor of nutrition; Catherine Rohweder, DrPH, research associate, UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center; Kristen Polzein, PhD, interventionist; Gratia Wright, focus group facilitator; Jane Laping, MA, MPH; and Karen Erickson, MPH, RD, project manager.

For more information about this pilot research study, contact Karen Erickson, project manager, at keericks@email.unc.edu.