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The Making of Medicine

Helping Rural Folks Manage Their Weight

Our Becca Krukowski, PhD, and colleagues have received more than $3.37 million from the National Institutes of Health to determine if online weight-management programs for rural residents can be improved by adding a human touch.

These online programs are particularly important for folks who don't live within easy access of in-person programs. But the online versions don't tend to work as well. Professor Krukowski and her colleagues at the School of Medicine and the University of South Carolina want to change that.

They will enroll more than 600 volunteer participants in an online 24-week weight-loss program and randomly assign them to receive one of two forms of feedback on their self-monitoring efforts, as well as potentially receiving additional support, including weekly group video sessions and individual coaching calls.

The study will allow the researchers to determine how to optimize online weight-management programs for the best results. This could have big benefits not just for rural areas but for society as a whole: More than 130 million Americans are overweight or obese, and people who reside in rural areas experience significantly higher rates of both obesity and chronic illnesses associated with obesity.

“Weight loss of as little as 5% to 7% can reduce obesity-associated co-morbidities,” Professor Krukowski noted. “The iREACH study is an exciting opportunity for rural residents to have access to a cutting-edge behavioral weight loss program and also contribute to science."

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