According to researchers, face-to-face and telephone follow-up sessions appear to be more effective in the maintenance of weight loss for women from rural communities compared with weight loss education alone.
The researchers highlighted the benefits of extended-care interventions and indicate that telephone counseling represents an effective and cost-efficient approach to the management of obesity in underserved rural settings.
Studies have shown that diet, exercise and behavior changes can produce significant weight loss and that extended care programs such as clinic-based follow-up sessions can improve weight loss maintenance.
However, in rural communities, distance to health care centers represents a significant barrier to ongoing care.
During the study, the research team led by Michael G. Perri, Ph.D., of the University of Florida, Gainesville conducted randomized trial involving 234 obese women, between the ages of 50 and 75, who completed a six-month weight loss program in six medically underserved rural communities.
The women were randomly assigned to three different extended-care programs consisting of 26 biweekly sessions for one year; 72 participants received telephone counseling, 83 received face-to-face counseling and 79 received biweekly newsletters containing weight loss maintenance tips.
The average weight lost during the six-month intervention was 10 kilograms.
"Participants in the telephone and face-to-face extended-care programs regained less weight [an average of 1.2 kilograms for each group] than those in the education control group [an average 3.7 kilograms]," the authors write.
"The beneficial effects of extended-care counseling were mediated by greater adherence to behavioral weight management strategies, and cost analyses indicated that telephone counseling was less expensive than face-to-face intervention," they added.
The report appears in Archives of Internal Medicine.