behavioral workplace wellness

U.S. Task Force Supports Behavioral Interventions for Obesity

As well-run workplace wellness programs seek to help employees manage obesity, behavioral interventions often become a key focus area.

Now the U.S. Preventative Service Task Force has issued a Draft Recommendation Statement on the role of behavioral interventions titled “Weight Loss to Prevent Obesity-Related Morbidity and Mortality in Adults: Behavioral Interventions.”

As background, the Task Force exists because, as the group states, “Since 1998, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) has been authorized by the U.S. Congress to convene the Task Force and to provide ongoing scientific, administrative, and dissemination support to the Task Force.”

The USPSTF highlights the background and role that obesity plays in chronic disease:

  • “More than 35% of men and 40% of women in the United States have obesity.Obesity is associated with health problems such as increased risk for coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, various types of cancer, gallstones, and disability.”
  • “Obesity is also associated with an increased risk for death, particularly among adults younger than age 65 years.”
  • “The leading causes of death among adults with obesity include ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, respiratory diseases, and cancer (e.g., liver, kidney, breast, endometrial, prostate, and colon cancer).”

Benefits of Behavioral Counseling Interventions

The note states: “The USPSTF found adequate evidence that behavior-based weight loss interventions in adults with obesity can lead to clinically significant improvements in weight status and reduced incidence of type 2 diabetes among adults with obesity and elevated plasma glucose levels. The USPSTF found adequate evidence that behavior-based weight loss maintenance interventions are associated with less weight gain after the cessation of interventions compared with control groups. The magnitude of these benefits is moderate.”

The agency notes that potential harms to this approach appear to be minimal: “The USPSTF found adequate evidence to bound the harms of intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions (i.e., behavior-based weight loss and weight loss maintenance interventions) in adults with obesity as small to none, based on the absence of reported harms in the evidence and the noninvasive nature of the interventions.”

It concludes: “The USPSTF concludes with moderate certainty that offering or referring adults with obesity to intensive, multicomponent behavioral interventions (i.e., behavior-based weight loss and weight loss maintenance interventions) has a moderate net benefit.”

It’s important to recognize a note that the USPSTF provides: “This is a Draft Recommendation Statement. This draft is distributed solely for the purpose of receiving public input. It has not been disseminated otherwise by the USPSTF. The final Recommendation Statement will be developed after careful consideration of the feedback received and will include both the Research Plan and Evidence Review as a basis.” Comments can be left on the site.