Pennington Biomedical releases new study on weight-loss in underserved Louisiana communities

Published: Sep. 11, 2020 at 5:28 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Your primary care clinic is the center piece for your medical care. However, it may not be the center piece for a weight loss journey, especially in lower income communities.

The Pennington Biomedical Research Center was sent out on a study to change that.

“It was like a miracle really,” said Penny Bennett, a Franklin, La. resident.

Losing weight is no small task, but for Bennett it was a miracle.

I had been trying to lose weight for some many years, but I never could get the weight off,” she said.

Now 65-years-old and 45 pounds down from where she started, Bennett entered a two year weight loss intervention. She learned about the right foods, exercises and how to keep the weight off. This was something unusual for her area.

“We never had nothing like that here, you know. It’s good restaurants and good food and everybody here is overweight.”

Bennett is one of 803 participants in a study called PROPEL by the Pennington Biomedical Research Center. They wanted to study weight loss in both rural and urban areas in Louisiana.

Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Sciences at Pennington said these populations traditionally face the most barriers to weight loss and the highest levels of obesity.

Individuals who have obesity have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and several forms of cancer,” said Katzmarzyk.

He found that personalized programs and education help people get the weight off and keep it off.

“However, the large majority of the population doesn’t really have access to these types of interventions, especially those with low income and are underserved.”

So, the research team randomly selected 18 primary care clinics across Louisiana and sent in local personal health coaches.

The emotions and results started to bloom.

“At first, it scared me when I finally started losing wight, I got scared. But my coach Stephanie, she helped me through that. She was so sweet,” said Bennett.

Those like Bennett in the intervention group lost five percent of their body weight. Participants in the usual care, control group lost less than half of a percent.

So it was great to see that these types of programs in primary care clinics stretched across Louisiana were really effective in producing weight loss,” said Katzmarzyk.

And a few years after the study ended, Bennett still follows the program to maintain her new healthy weight. She hopes others see the importance in this too.

“It’s about life, about living. You know, lives are at stake,” she says.

Dr. Katzmarzyk says the next big step in this study is to learn how to roll this weight loss project out on a large scale, so it can impact the thousands who really need it.

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