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Marshfield Clinic joins national obesity treatment study in rural communities

A overweight man lifts his daughter up on his shoulders outside in autumn

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Marshfield Clinic researchers and doctors are looking for new, more effective ways to treat obesity in rural communities as part of a 5-year, $10 million national study.

Nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population lives in rural communities, where obesity is disproportionally present. Rural communities clearly have less access to effective weight management programs as compared to people living in larger cities.

For that reason, this study will compare three different approaches to obesity treatment with the goal of helping patients achieve weight loss over two years. Researchers also will focus on improvements in patients’ laboratory results, quality of life, sleep quality and levels of stress.

 “Obesity underlies many of the deadliest diseases of our time, particularly in rural areas like central and northern Wisconsin,” said Jeffrey VanWormer, an epidemiologist and researcher at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation’s Center for Clinical Epidemiology and Population Health.​ “Over one-third of adults in the Marshfield Clinic service area are clinically obese, making it critical for us to find the best ways to help people reach and maintain a healthy weight.”

 Obesity treatment approaches to be studied are:​

  • Patient-centered medical homes – Teams of physicians, nurses and other health care providers will work closely with patients to provide educational material and support for developing weight-loss plans.

  • Disease management – Specially trained health care providers will provide intense obesity management coaching via telephone. Experts will set goals with the patients teach skills needed for effective weight loss.

  • Physician advice – Patients will receive obesity education directly from their primary care physicians with no additional support.

The study is supported by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI),​ a nonprofit tasked with improving the quality and relevance of health care information available to patients. As part of the Greater Plains Collaborative, Marshfield Clinic will partner with health care providers in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa in this study. The University of Kansas Medical Center will lead the study.

 “This study will be the largest weight management trial conducted so far in rural America, but the most rewarding aspect is that it focuses on a persistent health challenge that patients from across the country have asked PCORI to address,” VanWormer said. “This places Marshfield Clinic at the forefront of discovering practical, patient-centered models of weight management, which may eventually turn the tide against the obesity epidemic.”​

 Media Relations

John Gardner
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Jim Korth
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