MICROCLINIC: Social Network Lifestyle Intervention for Obesity

A "microclinic" lifestyle intervention model for obesity control was successful in promoting healthy lifestyle behaviors, and led to decreased body weight, improved central adiposity and decreased waist circumference, according to results of the MICROCLINIC trial presented Nov. 18 as part of AHA 2013.

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The Randomized Trial of Social Network Lifestyle Intervention for Obesity looked at 552 participants based in rural Kentucky, who were 85.8 percent women, with a mean age of 50.9 years, and a mean BMI of 36.2. Participants were randomized to social clusters comprised of two to eight individuals each, who participated together in a lifestyle intervention program led by health-educators with weekly physical activity, nutrition, health education and social activity sessions, whereas, the control group had access to standard care.

Results showed that at ten months, the intervention group had decreased body weight by -6.52 lbs, when compared to the control group (95 percent CI: -8.57 to -4.47; P<0.001). Further, they had improved central adiposity and a decreased waist circumference of -1.24 inches, when compared to the control group (-1.85 to -0.63; P <0.001). At 16 months, a subcohort showed that the decreases in weight and waist circumference were maintained.

The authors note that their findings show that in areas where medical care is limited, the "microclinic" lifestyle intervention model for obesity control is effective, and that their results "hold promise for socially engineering and leveraging the power of social networks interventions to propagate healthy lifestyle behaviors."

"Leveraging peer influences and social networks for support may be important for fighting obesity," said Eric L. Ding, ScD, lead author, epidemiologist and nutritionist at Harvard School of Public Health, and director of epidemiology at Microclinic International. "We need to focus on more than the individual obese patient in isolation, and look to family and friend networks and the communities where people live."

"Given the long-term sustained weight loss, we believe participants ... sustained the health benefits after the program was over due to the strength of the Microclinic Behavioral Health Program in leveraging the power of their social network," added Daniel Zoughbie, DPhil, co-lead author.

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