While the market is flooded with weight-loss programs, most are not tailored to specific ethnicities. Studies by DGHI faculty show that African Americans, for example, are more likely to have high blood pressure -- or hypertension -- than any other racial or ethnic group in the US.
The Be Fit, Be Well study followed 360 obese, low-income African American and Hispanic patients with hypertension in boston community health centers. One of the lead researchers on the study is DGHI faculty member Gary Bennett, who says this is the kind of model that works because it uses inexpensive technologies to deliver a high quality intervention. Designed to help people lose weight with a routine blood pressure medication regimen, lifestyle changes in diet and physical activity, self-monitoring and social support, the pilot intervention shows promise. Study participants had lost weight within six months, and kept the weight off two years later. Due to better self-monitoring and drug adherence, their high blood pressure was also better managed.
“Be Fit, be Well was one of the largest and longest studies of its type. The study shows that we can improve cardiometabolic risk factors in medically-vulnerable populations who have the highest disease risk,” said Bennett, associate professor of psychology, global health and medicine, who also leads an obesity prevention program at North Carolina Community health centers targeting African American women. “We hope to transform the primary health care system so that it is better equipped to address obesity, particularly in high-risk populations.”
Bennett’s research team uses an innovative and interactive web-based weight-loss application that has proven effective in his obesity studies. The application, iotaplan.com, is being released to the general public.
Learn more about DGHI's work addressing cardiovascular disease and obesity.