Even though behavioral weight loss counseling has been shown to be pretty effective in research studies, the challenge has been that it is impractical. These programs require multiple visits over long periods of time (1 year or longer according to studies) and this is not only expensive but requires a lot of time and energy from patients in terms of trekking back and forth to meetings. It also requires a fair degree of staffing, and often the professionals who are most qualified to deliver this counseling (dietitians, exercise physiologists, and psychologists) have the hardest time getting reimbursed for this work. I wondered how we could create effective, more affordable and convenient ways to counsel patients on weight loss.
In the digital age, there are so many ways to communicate–text, tweet, chat, you name it. Perhaps we need to start leveraging these digital forms of communication to cut costs. In a recent study, my group explored whether we could counsel patients through a weight loss attempt using a private Twitter group. Our results showed that yes, we can help people lose weight online without requiring them to come in for multiple, expensive visits. We are now competing for grant funding to test this on a large scale. I presented our findings at the Society of Behavioral Medicine Annual Conference in Philadelphia this week. Here is my talk:
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