Weight Watchers Applauds Updated U.S. Preventative Services Task Force Guidelines that Support Community-Based Programs as an Effective Obesity Treatment

USPSTF affirms that screening for obesity followed by intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions is an effective preventive service.

NEW YORKJuly 2, 2012 // PRNewswire // -- Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NYSE: WTW) applauds the updated clinical guidelines from the USPSTF that, when implemented, increase the number of adults screened for obesity as well as referrals to intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions, including community-based programs.

The USPSTF found that effective interventions were of high intensity (no fewer than 12 sessions in a year) and successful interventions include multiple behavioral management activities, such as group sessions, individual sessions, setting weight-loss goals, improving diet or nutrition, physical activity sessions, addressing barriers to change, active use of self-monitoring, and strategizing how to maintain lifestyle changes.

"As the world's leading provider of weight management services provided within communities, we're thrilled the USPSTF continues to recognize the efficacy of behavior-based solutions," said Karen Miller-Kovach, Chief Scientific Officer, Weight Watchers International. "Through more than 20,000 Weight Watchers meetings around the country every week, we remain committed to being an accessible, scalable, affordable and most important, effective option for communities and workplaces throughout the U.S. to help treat obese and overweight adults."

Weight Watchers also commends the USPSTF for recognizing the importance of screening and referral by primary care physicians. A growing body of research that was part of the USPSTF review process in updating the recommendation shows that physician referral to a community-based program like Weight Watchers is a powerful combination. In fact, Weight Watchers has published more than 70 publications over the past 15 years that demonstrate the efficacy of the Weight Watchers approach to weight loss and long-term health.

For example, a September 2011 study published in The Lancet (i) showed that a partnership between primary care physicians and the Weight Watchers program works. The one-year global study demonstrated that overweight and obese participants who were referred to Weight Watchers by a health care provider lost, on average, more than twice as much weight as those in the standard care group. The data demonstrates how a brief intervention by a health care provider including referral to Weight Watchers can be successful on a large scale in helping those with excess weight to achieve medically significant health benefits from losing weight.

In addition, research conducted in Birmingham, UK, and funded by NHS (National Health Service South Birmingham), examined the effectiveness of eight weight management options in a randomized, controlled 12-week trial with follow-up after one year.(ii) The study found that community-based weight management programs are more effective and more cost-effective than health professional primary care-based weight management counseling alone. In fact, the only groups in the trial that achieved statistically significant and sustained weight loss were those participating in group, community-based programs.

"More than 72 million Americans are obese(iii) but there are only 246,000 primary care physicians in the U.S.(iv), a ratio of nearly 300 obese adults for every one physician," says David Kirchhoff, CEO of Weight Watchers International. "Obviously, the obesity epidemic cannot be contained within the confines of the doctor's office. We stand ready to help physicians help their patients in the battle against weight-related chronic disease."

The updated recommendations, which were published online June 26, 2012 in the Annals of Internal Medicine, recognize this, stating "Although intensive interventions may be impractical within many primary care settings, patients may be referred from primary care to community-based programs for these interventions."

The Weight Watchers approach aligns with the recommendations as follows:


USPSTF Recommended Behavioral Management Activity

Weight Watchers Approach: Four Pillars of Food, Physical Activity, Cognitive Skills, and Support

Individual and Group Sessions

Support is one of the four pillars on which the Weight Watchers program is built. Community and work-site meetings, facilitated by a trained and successful role model, provide education, shared problem solving, and peer support.

Setting Weight-Loss Goals

Progressive weight-loss goals are an integral part of the Weight Watchers program. Members are encouraged and formally recognized for achieving a 5 percent weight loss goal, a 10 percent weight loss goal, and the achievement of a healthy body weight (usually a BMI of 25.) Maintenance of the goal within the healthy weight range is further supported by the awarding of Lifetime Member status.

Addressing Barriers to Change

Using techniques grounded in motivational interviewing, the cognitive skills associated with sustained weight loss are taught, practiced, and reinforced in an environment of peer support.

Active Use of Self-Monitoring

A variety of self-monitoring tools are core to the Weight Watchers program, including regular weighing and tracking of food and activity choices.

Strategizing How to Maintain Lifestyle Changes

As an adjunct to addressing the barriers to change, identification, reinforcement, and support in maintaining those behaviors essential for long-term maintenance of weight loss are provided continuously through the meetings and online tools. In addition, Lifetime Membership is designed to provide incentives to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

About Weight Watchers International, Inc. 

Weight Watchers International, Inc. is the world's leading provider of weight management services, operating globally through a network of Company-owned and franchise operations. Weight Watchers holds more than 45,000 meetings each week, at which members receive group support and learn about healthy eating patterns, behavior modification and physical activity. WeightWatchers.com provides innovative, subscription weight management products over the Internet and is the leading Internet-based weight management provider in the world. In addition, Weight Watchers offers a wide range of products, publications and programs for those interested in weight loss and weight control.

(i) Jebb, SA, Ahern, A, Olson MA, et al.  Primary care referral to a commercial provider for weight loss treatment versus standard care: a randomised controlled trial.  The Lancet 2011; 378:1485-1492. 

(ii) Kate JollyAmanda LewisJane BeachJohn Denley, Peymane Adab, Jonathan J Deeks, Amanda Daley , Paul Aveyard. A randomised controlled trial to compare a range of commercial or primary care led weight reduction programmes with a minimal intervention control for weight loss in obesity: the Lighten Up trial. British Medical Journal.

(iii) Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Obesity: Halting the Epidemic By Making Health Easier, At A Glance 2011

(iv) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Primary Care Workforce Facts and Stats No. 1 

SOURCE Weight Watchers International, Inc.


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