Phone As Good As Personal Counselling

Photo: A white old-fashioned telephone

Personal advice does not have to
be face to face to be encouraging;

In addition, telephone counselling appears to be just as effective as face-to-to face counselling for weight loss management. “Rural counties in the United States have higher rates of obesity, sedentary lifestyle and associated chronic diseases than non-rural areas, yet treatment of obesity in the rural population has received little research attention,” according to background information in the article.

Studies have shown that diet, exercise and behaviour changes can produce significant weight loss and that extended care programmes such as clinic-based follow-up sessions can improve weight loss maintenance. However, in rural communities, distance to health care centres is a significant barrier to ongoing care.

The researchers conducted a randomised trial involving 234 obese women (aged 50 to 75) who completed a six-month weight loss programme in six medically underserved rural communities. The women were randomly assigned to three different extended-care programmes consisting of 26 biweekly sessions for one year; 72 participants received telephone counselling, 83 received face-to-face counselling and 79 received biweekly newsletters containing weight loss maintenance tips. Estimated programme costs were also assessed.

Average weight at the beginning of the study was 96.4 kilograms (212.5 pounds). The average weight lost during the six-month intervention was ten kilogrammes (22 pounds). One year after the randomisation of the women into the three different programmes, participants in the telephone and face-to-face extended-care programmes regained less weight (an average of 1.2 kilograms or 2.6 pounds for each group) than those in the education control group (an average 3.7 kilogrammes or 8.2 pounds), the authors write.

“The beneficial effects of extended-care counselling were mediated by greater adherence to behavioural weight management strategies, and cost analyses indicated that telephone counselling was less expensive than face-to-face intervention,” the authors note.; Source: American Medical Association (AMA)