MCW/VA collaborate to control obesity

May 20, 2014 College News - The Medical College of Wisconsin and the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center are collaborating to help Veterans more effectively control their obesity.

Obesity increases the prevalence and severity of cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome, and it is also a leading contributor to cancer and osteoarthritis. Despite these risks, over two-thirds of patients within the VA system are overweight or obese—very similar to the general population. There is good evidence that moderately intensive weight reduction programs can have a modest but clinically significant impact on weight.

To help Veterans who would benefit from weight loss, the VA has developed a comprehensive weight management program known as MOVE!. Essential components of MOVE! include education about nutrition, physical activity, and behavioral or psychosocial issues; ongoing support from healthcare professionals; and tools to encourage self-monitoring of weight, diet, and physical activity.

Faculty in the Department of Medicine’s Division of General Internal Medicine located at the Zablocki VA are conducting a study on ways to increase participation among Veterans who would benefit from weight loss. Jeffrey Whittle, MD, MPH, Professor of Medicine (General Internal Medicine), is principal investigator on the study.

The research team’s overall goal is to increase participation in the Milwaukee VA Medical Center’s MOVE! program by implementing an innovative community-based program known as MOVE OUT. MOVE OUT incorporates the key elements of the proven MOVE! program, but in settings closer to the homes of eligible Zablocki patients. These settings include the posts of Veterans service organizations in Southeast Wisconsin, such as the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars, as well as community sites like shopping malls and churches. Activities are led by trained peer leaders who are predominantly Veterans.

To evaluate the impact of this enhanced availability, eligible VA patients have been randomly selected to receive regular newsletters encouraging them to take advantage of MOVE OUT activities near their homes. At the one- and two-year time points, VA patients invited to the MOVE OUT sessions are compared to those who were not selected to receive invitations to MOVE OUT.

The research team expects to demonstrate that the VA can enhance participation in its existing weight management program by making it available in community settings and by encouraging members of the Veteran community to lead regular activities at these locations. If this study finds that such a delivery approach leads to an increased number of at-risk Veterans participating in weight control programs, it will guide program design throughout the VA system. Lessons learned from this research are likely to help the VA improve its ability to help patients self-manage a variety of chronic diseases.

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