Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The NIH May Offer an Opportunity for Bariatric Centers

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), a U.S. governmental agency, pays a lot of attention to obesity among groups of lower socio-economic status -- with good reason. Studies done by the NIH indicate that a disproportionate number of persons in lower socio-economic groups are likely to be obese. Further, research programs, focusing on obesity in lower socio-economic groups, are important to the whole society, since the whole society pays for obesity in health care dollars. Because solving the obesity problem is so important to our society, the NIH offers obesity related research grants that some weight loss centers may be able to obtain.

Although important to society as a whole, reducing obesity in lower socio-economic groups is also important to persons in the groups. But reducing obesity in these groups is difficult, since persons in these groups typically live and work in environments not conducive to healthy diets and exercise. Healthy food such as fruits and vegetables are often not readily available to persons in these groups. Places to exercise are also hard to come by for these persons. Therefore, these problems need to be addressed to improve the health of individuals in lower socio-economic groups.

Now while a reduction in obesity is important for good health, a reduction in obesity may also be important for increasing economic status. In the workplace, people who are obese are less likely to get promoted than people of normal weight. And people in the workplace who are obese are less likely to get support from their colleagues than people of normal weight.

So while it may improve health, overcoming obesity may also raise the socio-economic status of persons in lower socio-economic groups. And because socio-economic status may be more important to many people than health, emphasizing the socio-economic status-raising benefits of weight reduction rather than the health benefits may be a better motivator for weight loss. Of couse, research could determine if this is true.

The NIH sponsors community programs that enable researchers to learn more about obesity among ethnic minority groups, since occupants of these groups make up a large portion of the obese in the U.S. And many obese persons in ethnic minority groups have a lower position on the socio-economic ladder.

Therefore, some bariatric centers could play a role in research focusing on obesity within lower socio-economic groups. Moreover, there may be NIH grants that could aid the centers in this endeavor. Engaging in obesity research could enhance a center's reputation, add to the obesity body of knowledge, and give a bariatric center a competitive edge.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Use of Health Coaches May Create an Opportunity for Medical Weight Loss Centers

For some time, companies have offered wellness programs to company employees. Wellness programs often stress a healthy diet and frequent exercise. Companies have sponsored these programs in an attempt to keep employees healthy, and possibly reduce health care costs. Now, a modification to company wellness programs may be creating an opportunity for medical weight loss centers.

Companies are now beginning to use health coaches in the wellness programs. Moreover, the companies are targeting specific diseases with the coaches. The targeted diseases include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, asthma, and depression. In some way, each of these ailments can be exacerbated by obesity. This is especially true for diabetes.

Recently, Service Corporation International (SCI) began focusing on diabetes in its health coaching program. And SCI expects to save $500,000 during the first year of its program's operation, because of the program's focus and the use of health coaches.

Other companies are also using health coaches to assist employees with wellness issues. UPS is one of these companies. With its program, UPS targets employees afflicted with heart disease and diabetes. And the coaches encourage the employees to stay on their diets or prescription drug regimens.

We believe that providing employees access to health coaches is relatively new for most companies. But providing this benefit may reduce a company's overall health care costs. And this reduction will help a company's bottom line.

We think that the growing use of health coaches by companies creates an opportunity for medical weight loss centers. We believe this to be the case, since weight loss centers focus on weight loss. And weight loss is a key factor in the illnesses targeted by company wellness programs.

Medical weight loss centers may have a competitive advantage in this area, because medical weight loss centers are more likely to have a medically supported program. Thus, health coaches from these centers are more likely to be using medically based procedures, which may make the procedures more credible to a company.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Using Collaboration to Fight Obesity and Improve a Competitive Position

Making use of collaboration can be an important component of an organization's business strategy. In this blog, we have often advocated collaboration between weight loss centers and other organizations as a way to improve a competitive position, while fighting overweight and obesity. A relationship formed between The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Subway Restaurant Franchise illustrates this kind of collaboration. NIH, Subway, and other organizations, have come together, under an NIH program called “We Can!,” to work with parents and children to fight childhood obesity.

The NIH is a component of an agency within the federal government. That agency is the Department of Health and Human Services. And the agency has the primary responsibility for medical research in the U.S.

The NIH is based in Bethesda Maryland. The organization, which had its start in 1887 in Staten Island, NY, works to determine the cause and treatment of rare and common diseases. The organization carries out investigations within every state in the U.S. and in other countries.

The We Can! program is education oriented. The program helps children who are 8 to 13 years old maintain a healthy weight. As indicated above, a number of organizations have joined the We Can! program. However, in our opinion, Subway stands out as a member of the program because of the organization's attention to weight loss.

Subway restaurants sell mostly sandwiches and salads. And the restaurant franchise is rapidly growing. Much of the growth is no doubt due, in part, to the marketing of low calorie sandwiches. Adhering to a low calorie diet can lead to weight loss success. Jared Fogle followed a low calorie diet heavily dependent on low calorie Subway sandwiches. Fogle lost over 200 pounds by eating Subway sandwiches and engaging in frequent exercise. His weight loss success is highlighted in Subway TV commercials.

We believe that the collaboration between the NIH and Subway will serve a number of useful purposes. The collaboration may entice more restaurants to vigorously market low calorie meals. And the federal government’s involvement with Subway -- and other organizations -- shows that the government views overweight and obesity as major problems.

Weight loss centers might want to consider getting involved with the NIH program. Moreover, weight loss organizations should always be on the lookout for collaborative opportunities that may help the centers fight obesity while strengthening a competitive position.
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