The New York Times is reporting a study of 67,000 people eligible to participate in PepsiCo’s Healthy Living wellness program. Participants were continuously involved in the program for seven years, far longer than most studies.
The study found that the part of the program designed to help people with chronic conditions through education and adherence to their medication regime (disease management) resulted in significant cost savings. However, the ‘lifestyle’ management component which addressed weight management or stress reduction resulted in no net savings at all.
The disease management reduced costs by $136 per member mainly due to a 29% reduction in hospital admissions. Lifestyle programs had no effect on health care costs. Lifestyle programs did show some drop in absenteeism but not enough to cover the costs of the program.
Perhaps this study will enlighten corporate America to the point that weight loss is complex and will not be solved by the simplistic programs they have been sold over the last dozen years. I would suggest that this study leads to another study: Use the disease management model with the administration of the FDA approved drugs for the treatment of obesity with or without lifestyle programs. This might take the best of both methods to find meaningful and sustainable weight loss.
The study is published in Health Affairs.