Program aids military/retirees weight loss

Dec. 17, 2011 at 1:00 AM
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RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C., Dec. 17 (UPI) -- A weight management program for inactive/retired U.S. military members and their families could improve health and cut medical costs, researchers say.

Researchers at RTI International, Virginia Commonwealth University, University of South Carolina, Cooper Institute and TRICARE Management Activity found the weight management program effective. TRICARE is the healthcare program serving active duty service and retirees and their families.

"We found that a relatively inexpensive cognitive-behavioral weight management intervention improved patient outcomes," lead author Jim Hersey, of RTI, said in a statement. "TRICARE tends to cover beneficiaries from the time of enrollment until they reach Medicare eligibility. Thus, a modest weight loss intervention that leads to savings for the entire TRICARE population would significantly reduce direct medical costs."

Almost 1,800 non-active duty TRICARE beneficiaries in four Midwestern states participated in the study, divided into three groups. The first group received written materials and basic Web access; the second received the same materials as the first, plus access to an interactive Web site that provided computerized feedback; the third group received the same access as the second group as well as telephone and e-mail coaching support every two weeks.

The findings, published in Preventive Medicine, showed all three methods led participants to lose about 4.6 percent of their body weight after six months and 3.7 percent after 15 or 18 months. Almost one-third of participants lost 7 percent or more of their body weight. There was no significant differences in weight loss among the three groups.

However, the study found the proportion of participants engaging in regular physical activity increased significantly, from 29.1 percent to 40.2 percent after one year, and up to 44.2 percent after 15 to 18 months.

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