Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP) is expanding its Weigh 2 Be weight-management program in hopes of reducing the rise in preventable diseases caused by obesity.
The Albany, NY, health plan has offered the Weigh 2 Be program to members in the community for a number of years and has recently launched the Weigh 2 Be website that offers the community access to weight-management tools.
The Weigh 2 Be program is one of nearly 300 free community wellness programs the health plan provides for its members each month, says Elizabeth Martin, MS, CHES, director of population health and wellness for CDPHP.
The programs are offered across the health plan’s entire service area in spaces provided by healthcare provider offices, fitness centers, and other community-based organizations.
An average of more than 600 CDPHP members register for the Weigh 2 Be program in the community each year. “We feel that being able to offer this multi-session program in the community gives members options to learn in person about physical activity, meal planning, and other weight loss techniques so they can develop a realistic plan to make behavior changes,” Martin says.
The classroom program includes information about the importance of being at a healthy weight, why body mass index is important, and ways to increase physical activity. Participants learn how to set long-term goals and develop strategies to meet the goals, says Therese Gadomski, RD, CBN, CDE, health promotion specialist with CDPHP.
Participants receive materials during each class and learn how to set goals and make lifestyle changes to meet them.
“We try to meet people where they are and encourage them to start out gradually. We encourage a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, but we don’t expect that from someone who hasn’t been exercising,” Gadomski says. For instance, if a person has difficulty walking down his driveway, Gadomski may suggest that he start out walking to the mailbox and gradually build up to walking one city block. When the class discusses weight loss, some people may want to start the process by focusing on not gaining weight and gradually move to trying to lose weight, she adds.
“Participants get the support they need week-to-week to lose weight and maintain their weight loss,” Gadomski adds.
Although the classes are group sessions, many participants ask for individual help. “The members of the class serve as a support system for other participants. We make general recommendations, but people feel comfortable asking about their specific situation and we can give them some additional suggestions,” she says.
A session on nutrition includes reading food labels, portion control, and healthy meal choices. Another session deals with the importance of exercise, she says. The health plan provides pedometers and encourages participants to set a goal of 10,000 steps a week. Participants receive resistance bands for strength training and learn exercises with the bands.
“We teach mindful eating and stress management. So many Americans are multitasking while eating. They eat in front of the TV, while working, or while sending text messages on their phone and their brains don’t receive the signal that they are consuming a meal, which can lead to overeating. We teach them to recognize that healthy habits can be negatively affected by stress and poor sleep habits,” she says.
Members who need support with weight loss are encouraged to call CDPHP’s Health Coach Connection, a help line available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The line is answered by registered dieticians and nurses. They help members set goals around diet and exercise and help them create healthy meal plans. “The health coaches are not conducting proactive outreach around weight management, but members often call on a regular basis for support,” Martin says.
The health plan’s in-house case management program works closely with the obesity initiatives and makes outreach to members with complex problems.
The health plan presents similar programs through employer groups and offers the option of a six-week or three-week program. “Most of the employer groups choose the three-week program. We know from a health education and behavior change standpoint that people need more than three weeks of lessons to change their behavior, but this starts the process and gives people the knowledge they need to live a healthy lifestyle and lose weight,” she says.
In 2013, the health plan presented its Weigh 2 Be program at employer groups 21 times, with an average of 15 to 25 members participating at each work site.
In addition, CDPHP offers employer groups one-on-one meetings with registered dieticians and personal trainers for their employees in the workplace. “A lot of employees have been interested in meeting with a dietician or personal trainer. This is typically a one-time consultation that lasts 15 to 20 minutes,” she says. The consultations may be in connection with a class or as a stand-alone service for employer groups.
The Weigh 2 Be program also is available online. The website is open to the public and includes tips and tools for weight management, healthy recipes, and other weight-loss information, but only members can enroll and receive support. “The online program is a way to engage members who don’t have time to attend a program. When they register, they begin to receive e-mails with tips and resources to help them achieve their weight-loss goals,” Martin says. The program also allows members to track workouts and food choices. In 2013, about 2,400 people registered online.
Members who join Weigh 2 Be online are eligible to receive a rebate of up to $65 if they complete 10 weeks of a weight management program. Last year, 650 people mailed in the request for a rebate.
As part of its efforts to improve the health of the community, Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan has partnered with the Capital District YMCA and Hannaford Supermarkets and opened a Healthy Living Center in a Hannaford store. The center offers exercise programs, one-on-one health coaching, health education classes, massage therapy, chronic disease education, and CDPHP’s Weigh 2 Be program.