A Baylor Institute for Rehabilitation research team recently completed a 12-month lifestyle-change pilot program to promote weight loss for people with mobility impairments.
The study for the program was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, granting $200,000 per year for three years.
Headed by Dr. Katherine Froehlich-Grobe, the program mainly investigated the feasibility and effectiveness of adapting an existing weight-loss approach—the so-called Group Lifestyle Balance program—to address the needs of these individuals.
Grobe says the Group Lifestyle Balance program itself was modified from the CDC’s successful Diabetes Prevention Program. One of the original GLB developers from the University of Pittsburgh is an investigator on the study, helping make changes and additions for the new program with the research team.
“We collaborated with a national advisory board, which included healthcare providers, individuals from the disability community, and public health researchers to target appropriate areas, then make changes and additions to the center and delivery format,” Grobe said in an interview. “The process [took] eight months to develop new content and implement format changes.”
Lifestyle coaches and BIR research coordinators Andrea Betts and Danielle Carlton introduced the adapted program, called GLB AIM, to 34 participants through a mix of in-person and telephone-based sessions.
Participants were recruited from the rehabilitation departments at Baylor and UT Southwestern, durable medical equipment suppliers, disability service organizations, and direct mail providing information sent to specific ZIP codes across Dallas. Some were previous BIR patients.
Two-thirds of the people selected in the GLB AIM were wheelchair users, mostly due to spinal cord injury, multiple sclerosis, amputation, or musculoskeletal issues.
The preliminary portion of the program educated participants about self-management strategies to reduce daily caloric intake and fat grams and to increase weekly physical activity. The results indicated that GLB AIM is an appropriate measure for mobility-impaired individuals seeking weight loss.
Over the course of one year, 29 people remained in the program and 90 percent returned for their final weigh-in. Initial results showed 58 percent lost weight using the GLB AIM program, dropping an average of 5.5 percent of their starting weight.
Participants rated the GLB AIM program with an average score of 4.6 (out of 5) overall on helpfulness and satisfaction.
This BIR study is one of the first and largest to be formally conducted in the U.S. to investigate outcomes of a lifestyle adaptation program targeting weight loss for mobile-impaired individuals.
Grobe says there are still limited weight-loss options available for people experiencing mobility impairment. Her team at BIR will take this seminal work to conduct future studies in order to better understand what is going on in the homes, communities and environments for individuals with mobility impairment.
“We hope to become known for the work that we do in addressing this largely neglected area of research,” Grobe said. “We hope that individuals across the DFW metro area will be directly able to benefit from the lessons we are learning as we move forward in this arena, to help them be actively engaged in making healthy lifestyle choices.”
A second group is following the GLB AIM program and its results will be released later this year. All work is done by the BIR research team in Dallas and in collaboration with investigators and the advisory board.