Dialing In: Effect of Telephonic Wellness Coaching on Weight Loss | Page 3

Published Online: February 25, 2014
Min Tao, PhD; Krishna Rangarajan, MS; Michael L. Paustian, PhD, MS; Elizabeth A. Wasilevich, PhD, MPH; and Darline K. El Reda, DrPH, MPH
The respondents targeted for telephonic wellness coaching reported a small but significant weight loss. It is unclear whether weight loss can be sustained beyond 1 year and whether the small weight loss observed has meaningful longterm health benefits. Sustaining weight loss is a persistent issue in weight loss programs.32 We only identified 1 published study that followed telephonic weight loss program participants for up to 2 years, and that study reported no significant weight loss among telephonic coaching participants at 2 years compared with participants who received a mail intervention or usual care.33,34 It is worth noting that in this HealthPartners clinical trial, participants who received either phone, mail, or usual care were all highly motivated volunteers who responded to mail or a clinic poster about the trial. Because a major technique in telephonic wellness coaching is motivational interviewing, the benefit of intervention may be limited to participants who are already highly motivated. As shown in this study, wellness coaching participants who started in the preparation stage benefited significantly from the program. Participants who were already in the action stage reported weight loss, but showed no additional benefit from completing the program. Additional studies with different populations and additional settings are needed to fully address the impacts of telephonic wellness coaching on both short-term and long-term weight loss.

Research suggests that a moderate amount of weight loss has potential benefits for obese patients.35,36 But the amount of weight loss observed in this telephonic wellness coaching program is less than 1% of total body weight and among a healthier population. Future studies on telephonic wellness coaching and weight loss may need to also report details on nutritional and physical activity components of the programs that could be associated with weight loss and the sustainability of these behaviors. If the lifestyle changes adopted through wellness coaching result in a sustainable, small amount of weight loss, this may improve health outcomes in the long term.

Take-Away Points

Telephonic wellness coaching programs are popular interventions for a large population because of their versatility and convenience.
  • This large retrospective study observed small weight loss among telephonic wellness coaching participants more than 6 months after they finished the program.

  • It evaluated factors that impact weight loss among wellness coaching participants, including participants’ initial stage of change, motivation level, and intensity of coaching received. This information can assist decision making of whether to offer telephonic wellness coaching programs to a population. The analysis on successful elements of wellness coaching programs can help compare telephonic wellness coaching programs or improve program design.
Author Affiliations: Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Health Care Value, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM).

Funding Source: None.

Author Disclosures: Drs Tao, Paustian, and El Reda all report being employed by BCBSM. Mr Rangarajan and Dr Wasilevich report no relationship or financial interest with any entity that would pose a conflict of interest with the subject matter of this article.

Authorship Information: Concept and design (MT, KR, MLP, EAW, DKER); acquisition of data (MT, DKER); analysis and interpretation of data (MT, KR, MLP, DKER); drafting of the manuscript (MT, EAW, DKER); critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content (MT, MLP, EAW, DKER); statistical analysis (MT, KR); and supervision (MT, DKER).

Address correspondence to: Min Tao, PhD, Tower 500, Renaissance Ctr, Detroit, MI 48243. E-mail: mtao@bcbsm.com.
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