Obesity | A Toolbox Approach to Obesity Treatment in Primary Care

Obesity research study

What is the primary objective of this study?

Obesity is common, causing many medical problems in adults (e.g., diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, heart attack, strokes). A range of treatments have shown to be effective for treating obesity. Treatments include lifestyle modification, meal replacements, and weight loss medication. Most primary care settings do not provide much obesity treatment, though, as primary care providers (PCPs) are not well trained and because reimbursement for treatments is not consistent. Hypothesis: If PCPs have training in weight management and if most costs of treatment are reimbursed, we surmise that a \"toolbox\" of treatments can produce a clinically important weight loss amount in a large group of patients. Design: We propose to establish a registry of obese patients with at least one common medical condition related to their weight. From the registry, we will randomly select 350 people to be offered treatments to assist with weight loss. The remainder of the registry's patients can still receive obesity treatment but will not be reimbursed. We will conduct the study at Denver Health, a large public health care system that treats a low income, ethnically diverse population. All 350 patients will be offered some self-monitoring tools for weight management and the chance to do a computer assessment to select the right treatment for weight loss. Patients who complete this and record their food intake and physical activity for 1 week will be offered a \"Level 2\" treatment for weight loss. Level 2 treatments include: a voucher for a commercial weight loss program; intensive group weight loss counseling; meal replacements; gym membership; or weight loss medication. Patients will choose which treatment they want, with the approval of their PCP. Researchers at Denver Health will help with the computer assessment and dispensing the treatments. We are interested in what percentage of patients lose at least 5% of their starting weight. We will also explore changes in glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol, and we will look at how much this intervention costs and whether patients need less medication for their weight-related conditions at the end of the study. Impact: If the study is successful, we plan to take the results to the leaders at Denver Health to see if they will make obesity treatment more broadly available for all patients there.

Who is eligible to participate?

Inclusion Criteria: 1. BMI > 30 kg/m2 and < 45 kg/m2 2. Any one of the following (weight-related) diagnoses: type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, including those treated with glucose lowering medications; hypertension, including patients treated with anti-hypertensive medications; hyperlipidemia, including those treated with lipid lowering agents; atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, including coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, or peripheral vascular disease; obstructive sleep apnea 3. Visited their primary care provider (PCP) at least twice during the past 12 months, including once in the last 6 months Exclusion Criteria: Heart attack or stroke within the past 6 months; cancer treated within the past 5 years, except for non-melanoma skin cancer or localized prostate cancer; other medical contraindications to weight loss (e.g., end-stage renal disease, cirrhosis); active substance abuse; current treatment for bipolar disorder or schizophrenia; discretion of PCP (see below)

Which medical condition, disease, disorder, syndrome, illness, or injury is researched?


Study Interventions

Interventions can include giving participants drugs, medical devices, procedures, vaccines, and other products that are either investigational or already available or noninvasive approaches such as surveys, education, and interviews.

Behavioral:Commercial weight loss programvouchers for Weight Watchers

Behavioral:Colorado WeighGroup behavioral weight loss program

Dietary Supplement:Meal replacementsHealth Management Resources meal replacement products (shakes and entrees)

Drug:Obesity pharmacotherapyPhentermine or phentermine-topiramate (Qsymia)

Behavioral:Recreation center passes1 year pass to a Denver recreation center

Study Arms

Research studies and clinical trials typically have two or more research arms. An arm is a group of people who receive the same treatment in the study.

Intervention350 randomly-selected patients at 4 clinics get a "toolbox" of weight loss options, including self-monitoring tools; education materials; recreation center passes; commercial weight loss program (Weight Watchers); intensive group counseling (Colorado Weigh); meal replacements; and obesity pharmacotherapy. The initial assessment, a computer program, takes diet and exercise history and helps patients choose personal treatment goals. Interested patients get a starter kit with self-monitoring tools and meal replacements. Subjects must show self-monitoring of diet and exercise to get more intensive therapies. Patients pay a $5-$10 co-pay for the therapies. They select a primary intensive therapy, but are able to add/change depending on results, adherence and budget availability.

ControlRegistry patients not selected to be offered the toolbox will receive usual care for weight management. Usual care for obesity at DH includes brief weight loss advice provided by PCPs or prescribing of weight loss medication, for which patients pay out of pocket.

Study Status


Start Date: January 2014

Completed Date: August 2016

Phase: Phase 4

Type: Interventional


Primary Outcome: Percentage of Participants Who Achieved >5% Weight Loss at 12 Months

Secondary Outcome: Documentation of Obesity

Study sponsors, principal investigator, and references

Principal Investigator: Daniel H Bessesen, MD

Lead Sponsor: Denver Health and Hospital Authority


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