Obesity and Behavior Modification

Obesity and Behavior Modification

By Aditi Joshi

More than half of the American population is considered to be overweight with more than a third suffering from obesity. In 2008, approximately $147 billion was spent by Americans to get medical help for weight management and the healthcare bill of obese patients was $1,429 higher than that of normal weight individuals. Thus, researchers are now focusing on developing low cost solutions for weight management to help reduce the heavy economic burden associated with obesity.

Behavior modification is considered an effective tool in chronic weight management. Some studies have shown that such a modification can lead to a weight loss of up to ten percent. Behavior modification treatments include changes in behavior such as reducing sedentary time, including daily exercise routines, controlling diet/calorie intake, and increasing social participation. However, modifying behavior is somewhat a challenging task and many people need support to stay on track like joining self-help groups, for instance.

The use of technology has been advocated to promote behavior modification. Several research studies have highlighted the efficacy of web-based interventions for weight loss through online forums or websites to provide social support while striving for weight loss. Additionally, the use of pedometers, exercise DVDs, and wearable devices are useful to monitor sedentary behavior throughout the day.

With the advent of mobile phones, smartphones in particular, various apps, websites, and programs have been designed for weight management. Some of these have focused on a weight loss of a few (one to two) pounds per week, using features such as ‘food diaries’ or ‘activity journals’ to maintain the calorie balance and through point-of-decision prompts like ‘drink water instead of soda’. In general, apps that offer an affordable solution for achieving behavior modification exist. Many of these apps are free while others charge a relatively affordable fee (up to $19.99).

Some programs—such as the Kurbo program, Omada health, or Vida—offer health coaching via a mobile app for weight management. Mark Vershel, co-founder of the Kurbo program, notes that, in the adolescent population, the familiarity and convenience of mobile apps provides an advantage over office visits in weight management programs, the norm in traditional health coaching.

With the help of smartphone apps, there has been greater adherence to diet monitoring – a significant behavior modification. The use of technology, in particular smartphone apps, for weight loss has led to promising yet inconsistent results and further studies need to be conducted. Further randomized controlled clinical studies designed to measure the effectiveness and economic advantage of smartphone apps should be implemented.

Acknowledgment: Mark Vershel, Co-Founder and CTO at Kurbo Health.


Image courtesy of pixabay.com

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