BACKGROUND: Weight loss interventions based solely on text messaging (short message service [SMS]) have been shown to be modestly effective for short periods of time and in some populations, but limited evidence is available for positive longer-term outcomes and for efficacy in Hispanic populations. Also, little is known about the comparative efficacy of weight loss interventions that use SMS coupled with brief, technology-mediated contact with health coaches, an important issue when considering the scalability and cost of interventions. We examined the efficacy of a 1-year intervention designed to reduce weight among overweight and obese English- and Spanish-speaking adults via SMS alone (ConTxt) or in combination with brief, monthly health-coaching calls. ConTxt offered 2-4 SMS/day that were personalized, tailored, and interactive. Content was theory- and evidence-based and focused on reducing energy intake and increasing energy expenditure. Monthly health-coaching calls (5-10 minutes' duration) focused on goal-setting, identifying barriers to achieving goals, and self-monitoring.
METHODS AND FINDINGS: English- and Spanish-speaking adults were recruited from October 2011 to March 2013. A total of 298 overweight (body mass index [BMI] 27.0 to 39.9 kg/m2) adults (aged 21-60 years; 77% female; 41% Hispanic; 21% primarily Spanish speaking; 44% college graduates or higher; 22% unemployed) were randomly assigned (1:1) to receive either ConTxt only (n = 101), ConTxt plus health-coaching calls (n = 96), or standard print materials on weight reduction (control group, n = 101). We used computer-based permuted-block randomization with block sizes of three or six, stratified by sex and Spanish-speaking status. Participants, study staff, and investigators were masked until the intervention was assigned. The primary outcome was objectively measured percent of weight loss from baseline at 12 months. Differences between groups were evaluated using linear mixed-effects regression within an intention-to-treat framework. A total of 261 (87.2%) and 253 (84.9%) participants completed 6- and 12-month visits, respectively. Loss to follow-up did not differ by study group. Mean (95% confidence intervals [CIs]) percent weight loss at 12 months was -0.61 (-1.99 to 0.77) in the control group, -1.68 (-3.08 to -0.27) in ConTxt only, and -3.63 (-5.05 to -2.81) in ConTxt plus health-coaching calls. At 12 months, mean (95% CI) percent weight loss, adjusted for baseline BMI, was significantly different between ConTxt plus health-coaching calls and the control group (-3.0 [-4.99 to -1.04], p = 0.003) but not between the ConTxt-only and the control group (-1.07 [-3.05 to 0.92], p = 0.291). Differences between ConTxt plus health-coaching calls and ConTxt only were not significant (-1.95 [-3.96 to 0.06], p = 0.057). These findings were consistent across other weight-related secondary outcomes, including changes in absolute weight, BMI, and percent body fat at 12 months. Exploratory subgroup analyses suggested that Spanish speakers responded more favorably to ConTxt plus health-coaching calls than English speakers (Spanish contrast: -7.90 [-11.94 to -3.86], p < 0.001; English contrast: -1.82 [-4.03 to 0.39], p = 0.107). Limitations include the unblinded delivery of the intervention and recruitment of a predominantly female sample from a single site.
CONCLUSIONS: A 1-year intervention that delivered theory- and evidence-based weight loss content via daily personalized, tailored, and interactive SMS was most effective when combined with brief, monthly phone calls.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01171586.
Obesity is a frequent pathology in clinical obstetrics, obstetricians dealing on a daily basis with its consequences. The results from this study would be of importance for antenatal obesity clinics and the programs, either hospital or midwifery-led, that address obesity and weight loss in pregnancy. The intervention discussed in this report would be relatively easy to implement in such clinics. Our own experience shows that in person or over the phone coaching does promote weight management and loss in pregnant women with improvement of some obstetrical outcomes.
This is another study looking at the value of short messaging together with frequent phone calls in the management of obesity. The strength of this study is that it is a randomised study, with greater than 85% completion rate. This proves that frequent contact with the patient may improve weight loss.