Saturday, 10 September 2011

Weight Watchers on Prescription

Results from a recently published study in The Lancet show that overweight and obese people following the Weight Watchers programme are likely to lose twice as much weight as those relying on standard NHS treatment.

The research, carried out between September 2007 and November 2008, compared two groups of adults in Australia, Germany and the UK whereby participants were randomly allocated either the Weight Watchers programme or referred to their local general practice for a period of 12 months. Out of a total of 772 overweight and obese participants, 377 adults followed Weight Watchers (at no cost) while the other 395 were assigned standard care from their local GP.

After 12 months, 230 (61%) finished the Weight Watchers programme and 214 (54%) completed the standard care treatment. Overall, those on Weight Watchers lost an average 5.06kg or around 11lbs, while the standard care participants lost an average 2.25kg or around 5lbs.

The weight loss achieved was similar in all three countries taking part, which implies that following a commercial programme such as Weight Watchers, is likely to work equally as well in economically developed countries.

Due to the success of Weight Watchers, where dieters attend weekly weigh ins and receive group support, there are calls for the programme to be offered on the NHS on a more widespread scale.

Currently in the UK, Weight Watchers is working in partnership with many local health services through the Weight Watchers Referral Scheme. To date, almost two thirds of PCTs across England are engaged with the scheme whereby obese patients are ‘prescribed’ a twelve week session at Weight Watchers at a reduced cost or free.

Some have voiced concerns over the NHS funding such a scheme. But with obesity such a major problem, there are convincing arguments as to the cost effectiveness of patients losing weight using a commercial programme, particularly when taking into account the increasing costs to the NHS for treating obesity-related diseases.

As an aside, it would be interesting to know whether patients who are prescribed free Weight Watchers sessions on the NHS invoke any kind of resentment from regular members. Perhaps it would be better to keep quiet about it. Does anyone have any experience of this? If so, please drop me a comment or email 'dietsandcalories' if you, or anyone you know has been prescribed Weight Watchers on the NHS and let me know your experiences.

Source: NHS - Effectiveness of Slimming Clubs Tested.


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