Commercial Weight-Loss Centers Prove an Unsteady Partner in Research

Pilot study of the feasibility of using weight loss centers to study chronic care in community-based environments

Duke University Medical Center conducted a pilot study from September 1997 to September 1999 to assess the feasibility of conducting research on obesity and other chronic diseases within commercial weight-loss centers, which increasingly are the source of medical and behavioral care for obese Americans.

The researchers intended to use the data from the study to support an application to the National Institutes of Health for funding of further research.

Key Results

Duke University Medical Center originally contracted with Nutri/Systems LP (which subsequently became U.S. Medical Weight Loss Centers) to conduct the pilot study at its centers. However, U.S. Medical went out of business following the discovery of adverse heart valve defects associated with the use of fen-phen.

In October 1998 Duke contracted with Complete Wellness Weight Management, Inc., the successor to U.S. Medical, to carry out the study. Shortly thereafter, Complete Wellness Weight Management, Inc., was sold and its participation in the study ended.

After the grant ended, Duke then began negotiating to conduct a pilot study with the Jenny Craig weight-loss centers.

Funding

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) provided $49,859 to support the project from September 1997 to September 1999.