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CU leads study on weight loss for medically underserved

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Author Staff | Publish Date May 29, 2013

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AURORA, Colo. - A study by researchers from University of Colorado’s School of Medicine and Anschutz Health and Wellness Center (AHWC) may make obesity treatment more broadly available to people with fewer resources.

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) approved an award of almost $1 million at Denver Health Medical Center to determine whether making obesity treatment more available helps increase the number of patients losing weight and getting healthier. The research will be conducted in collaboration with CU School of medicine researchers.

Daniel Bessesen, MD, professor of medicine at CU School of Medicine and associate director of AHWC, and Adam Tsai, MD, MSCE, assistant professor of medicine at CU School of Medicine and at AHWC, are the principal investigators for the study.

“We want to see what happens when patients are given a chance to improve their health,” Tsai says.

According to Tsai, the study will establish a large computer registry of patients who have obesity and at least one common medical condition related to their weight - diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, heart attack or stroke.

Once the registry is established, 350 people will be randomly selected and offered self-monitoring tools for weight management. They will have a chance to complete a computer survey and to record their food intake and physical activity for one week. Those completing the records will then be able to choose what kind of weight loss assistance they want including commercial weight loss programs, weight loss medication and gym memberships. The weight loss assistance will be paid for by the study award. The remainder of patients in the registry also can receive obesity treatment but it will not be reimbursed.

“In addition to weight loss and improved health, we would also like to see people involved in the study reduce the amount of medication they need,” Tsai says. “If the study shows favorable results, we’ll work with Denver Health to make obesity treatment broadly available to patients there.”

The CU School of Medicine study is one of 51 projects totaling $88.6 million approved for funding by PCORI. All were selected through a review process in which scientists, patients, and caregivers evaluated more than 400 applications for funding. Proposals were evaluated on the basis of scientific merit and how well they engage patients.

“This project reflects PCORI’s commitment to support patient-centered comparative effectiveness research, a new approach to health research that emphasizes the inclusion of patients and caregivers at all stages of the study process,” Joe Selby, MD, MPH, PCORI’s executive director says. “The research will provide patients and those who care for them better information about the healthcare decisions they face.”

The awards are part of PCORI’s second cycle of primary research funding. In the first round, PCORI’s approved $40.7 million for 25 projects. All awards in this most recent round of funding were approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.