Telehealth for Weight Management of African American Women


To examine the effectiveness of a weight maintenance program delivered by phone or video to obese African-American women.


Rates of obesity in the United States have increased dramatically over the past four decades. Although research studies have demonstrated that weight loss is achievable through lifestyle modifications, the maintenance of weight beyond six months remains a challenge. A number of contributing factors lead to weight regain, including expectations of short-term behavioral change, brief duration of obesity treatment, lack of continuous motivation, lack of social support, and others. For low-income, urban African American women, other barriers to maintaining weight and regular physical activity include unsafe neighborhoods and lack of comfort in or access to fitness facilities. This study examines the effectiveness of a weight maintenance telehealth program in obese African-American women. The telehealth intervention includes the delivery of Internet-based services through home television sets. These services provide assistance with relapse prevention and problem solving measures, motivational stories, exercise instruction, and support for greater peer-peer communication. The study includes a one-year randomized controlled trial to determine the feasibility of this telehealth program in maintaining weight. One hundred obese African-American women are enrolled. All participants receive an initial 12-week weight loss intervention held in local churches. Following completion of this program, participants are randomly assigned to one of two groups: 1) Telephone counseling only (Control): includes monthly telephone calls to encourage healthy behaviors and prevent relapse; 2) Telephone counseling and telehealth program (Intervention): includes telephone counseling calls plus the telehealth program services. The specific aims of the study are:

  1. To evaluate the effect of the telehealth intervention on change in body-mass-index (BMI) among African American women
  2. To evaluate the effect of the telehealth intervention on physical activity, fat, and fiber intake, and fruit and vegetable intake among African American women.

If effective, a second study will be planned to evaluate the telehealth program in a larger population over a longer period of time. This will help determine the public health impact of telehealth on obesity.

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Related publications

Gerber BS, Schiffer L, Brown AA, Berbaum ML, Rimmer JH, Braunschweig CL, Fitzgibbon ML. Video telehealth for weight maintenance of African-American women. J Telemed Telecare. 2013 Jul;19(5):266-72. [See abstract.]

Kositsawat J, Freeman VL, Gerber BS, Geraci S. Association of A1C levels with vitamin D status in U.S. adults: data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Diabetes Care. 2010 Jun;33(6):1236-8. [See abstract.]