A weight management program offered by the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency will receive additional support from West Virginia University’s College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences. Starting July 1, CPASS researchers will oversee Health Performance Services, a PEIA-funded health behavior counseling unit that will provide telephone consultations to participants in the weight management program.

Two trained telephone counselors will support participants by helping them change their dietary habits and physical activity behaviors. The goal is to increase participation and retention in the program, which has averaged around 900 participants a year, according to Christiaan Abildso, Ph.D., CPASS project coordinator.

About 25 percent of 1,952 program participants from 2004-2008 dropped out during the first three months. Approximately 50 percent of the participants did not complete the first year. Both statistics are comparable to other, similar weight loss research trials, Abildso said.

“In line with other research, we’ve found that six months seems to be a critical point,” Abildso said. “If participants make it in the program that long, the behavior change seems to stick for the long-term.”

The phone counselors are an added component to on-site fitness and nutrition professionals at various facilities approved by PEIA to offer the program. The number of sites has doubled in two years, from 30 to 60, said Abildso, but there is a shortage of trained, qualified professionals to provide one-on-one, in-person counseling at each site. Entering its third year of the partnership, CPASS’ research has helped define better techniques and approaches that will result in long-term improvement.

“During the first two years, we were on the outside looking in. We were conducting research, evaluating program services and results at the facilities implementing the program. That will continue in year three of the contract,” Abildso said. “This is a major service as we fight obesity in the state. We are pleased to work with PEIA and happy to provide such a unique opportunity for students, faculty and staff that the service contract creates.”

PEIA Director Ted Cheatham said the program has benefitted from CPASS research, which has helped PEIA steadily improve the program. PEIA administers various wellness programs for its members, which focus on enhancing quality of life by increasing physical activity. The Weight Management Program continues to grow in popularity throughout the state, and allows members to participate for up to two years.

“We have learned what is most important to our members and what is most important for their health,” Cheatham said. “We have expanded this program by intensifying our services and by encouraging members to participate for at least six months. This has proved to be a key to its success in transforming positive habits for healthy living.”

According to Abildso, past research can help PEIA gather additional evidence of the program’s impact on participants’ quality of life and mental health.

The new health performance services unit will also provide opportunities for WVU students to receive training in health behavior counseling, and for faculty and students to present and publish research on health behavior change.

“The health performance services provide an opportunity for us to teach the necessary skills to weight loss participants all over the state, and to evaluate the impact of these counseling sessions on program adherence and weight loss success,” Sam Zizzi, associate professor with CPASS who is principal investigator and consultant with the program.

Visit http://www.peiapathways.com/ for more information. Call toll free 866-688-7493 to enroll.



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CONTACT: Kimberly Cameon, WVU College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences
304-293-0827, Kimberly.Cameon@mail.wvu.edu