Obesity continues to be seen as a growing epidemic. In fact, The Lancet recently released a series of papers on obesity that predicted there could be 65 million more obese adults in the USA and 11 million more in the UK by 2030(1) – an estimate that makes the results of this study all the more relevant.
The data demonstrates how a brief intervention by the physician including referral to Weight Watchers can be successful on a large scale in helping those with excess weight achieve medically significant health benefits from losing weight.
Dr. Susan Jebb says: "Trials like this are vital to identify effective interventions to tackle obesity and provide the evidence to inform policy decisions. The similar weight losses achieved in Australia, Germany and the UK implies that this commercial program, in partnership with primary care providers, is a robust intervention which is likely to be generalizable to other economically developed countries with a Western lifestyle."
This evidence comes as the problems of obesity worldwide result in huge demands on medical services, and is perceived as a global health problem. The World Health Organization estimates that one billion people worldwide are currently overweight and more than 300 million are obese. Excess weight in adults accounts for 44% of the global burden of diabetes, 23% of ischemic heart disease and 7 - 41% of certain cancers(2). Healthcare systems around the world whether public, private or combination are under pressure, and have a desire to respond to the obesity crisis.People assigned to standard care reported attending one appointment per month, while those assigned to Weight Watchers reported attending three appointments each month. Standard care was predominantly one to one with a primary care healthcare professional. In the UK this was almost always a nurse or healthcare assistant. In Germany this was almost always the family physician. In Australia it was a mixture of the two depending on practice set up. Karen Miller-Kovach, Chief Scientific Officer, Weight Watchers International says: "The discrepancy in time spent between patients assigned to the two treatments suggests that those referred to Weight Watchers were able to be much more engaged and benefitted from the intense support the weekly meetings provided and made them feel more accountable for their weight loss efforts. This reinforces the importance of group support for long-term behavioral change and sustainable weight loss." Miller-Kovach continues: "This evidence proves what we have believed for some time - that Weight Watchers is a highly effective complement to usual primary care. It seems that there is something very powerful in health professionals and Weight Watchers working together that really works for patients."