The Balance Protocol: A Pragmatic Weight Gain Prevention Randomized Controlled Trial for Medically Vulnerable Patients Within Primary Care.

The Balance Protocol: A Pragmatic Weight Gain Prevention Randomized Controlled Trial for Medically Vulnerable Patients Within Primary Care.

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BACKGROUND:

For patients with obesity who are not ready for or experience barriers to weight loss, clinical practice guidelines recommend provider counseling on preventing further weight gain as a first-line treatment approach. Unfortunately, evidence-based weight gain prevention interventions are not routinely available within primary care. To address this gap, we will implement a pragmatic 12-month randomized controlled trial of a digital weight gain prevention intervention delivered to patients receiving primary care within a network of Federally Qualified Community Health Centers in central North Carolina.

METHODS:

Balance (Equilibrio in Spanish) is a pragmatic effectiveness trial that will randomize adult patients who have overweight or obesity (BMI of 25-40 kg/m2) to either: 1) a weight gain prevention intervention with tailored behavior change goals and tracking, daily weighing on a network-connected electronic scale, and responsive weight and goal coaching delivered remotely by health center registered dietitians; or 2) a usual care program with automated healthy living text messages and print materials and routine primary care. The primary outcome will be weight gain prevention at 24-months, defined as ≤3% change in baseline weight. To align with its pragmatic design, trial outcome data will be pulled from the electronic health record of the community health center network.

DISCUSSION:

For underserved, often rurally-located patients with obesity, digital approaches to promote a healthy lifestyle can curb further weight gain. Yet enrolling medically vulnerable patients into a weight gain prevention trial, many of whom are from racial/ethnic minorities, can be difficult. Despite these potential challenges, we plan to recruit a large, diverse sample from rural areas, and will implement a remotely-delivered weight gain prevention intervention to medically vulnerable patients. Upcoming trial results will demonstrate the effectiveness of this pragmatic approach to implement and evaluate a digital weight gain prevention intervention within primary care.

Photography by Derick McKinney

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