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Press Release

February 02, 2017

Kaiser Permanente members who voluntarily participated in individual wellness coaching by telephone for weight management lost an average of 10 pounds each and changed their weight trajectories from upward to downward, according to a new study published in the journal Obesity.

“We found that these patients lost clinically significant amounts of weight,” said Julie A. Schmittdiel, PhD, research scientist with the Kaiser Permanente Division of Research and the study’s lead author. “Even a small amount of weight loss can really help patients to see significant health benefits over time.”

Kaiser Permanente offers voluntary wellness coaching by phone to all its members nationwide for no additional fee, specifically targeting weight management, healthy eating, physical activity, tobacco cessation, and stress reduction. The coaching is provided by masters-level health professionals who are trained in evidence-based coaching methods, including motivational interviewing.

“In the first coaching session, we elicit members own reasons to achieve a healthy weight, assess their readiness to make lifestyle changes and help them focus on a realistic step forward,” said co-author Mindy Boccio, MPH, senior consultant for regional health education in Kaiser Permanente Northern California. “We then schedule follow-up sessions to provide guidance and support to help maintain lifestyle changes.”

The study reviewed the electronic medical records of nearly 1,000 Kaiser Permanente members in Northern California who participated in voluntary wellness coaching to address healthy eating, active living, and weight loss strategies. They were compared to a matched control group of more than 19,000 members with similar baseline weight and weight gain who did not participate in wellness coaching.

The wellness coaching participants and matched controls all had significant upward trend in weight in the year before the study period, but only the wellness coaching participants had a significant downward trend in the year after their first coaching session, equivalent to an average of one BMI unit or about 10 pounds. Each participated in two telephone coaching sessions on average.

“Since the wellness coaching program was launched in Northern California in 2010, we have learned that our members appreciate the opportunity to receive lifestyle coaching on their own schedules by phone,” said co-author Nancy Goler, MD, Kaiser Permanente Northern California associate executive director and former director of the Wellness Coaching Center. “Now we have strong evidence that coaching is helping members to live healthier lives.”

The current research is the latest in a series conducted by the Natural Experiments for Translation in Diabetes (NEXT-D) study to assess the effectiveness of wellness coaching in a large, integrated health care system. In November 2015, a study in the American Journal of Health Promotion found that Kaiser Permanente wellness coaching participants were able to quit tobacco at higher rates than matched controls (31 percent vs. 23 percent) and that their quitting rates were comparable to people who attended in-person group classes.

Likewise, a study in Preventing Chronic Disease in October 2013 found that patient satisfaction levels with coaching were high among Kaiser Permanente members participating in two or more wellness coaching sessions: in a survey (n = 232), 70 percent were satisfied with the program and 71 percent would recommend it to others.

Kaiser Permanente members can call (866) 862-4295 to schedule a wellness coaching session.


In addition to Schmittdiel, Boccio and Goler, co-authors of the study were Sara R. Adams, MPH, Rashel S. Sanna, David Bellamy, MAOM, Susan D. Brown, PhD, Romain S. Neugebauer, PhD, and Assiamira Ferrara, MD, PhD, all of Kaiser Permanente Northern California.

The study was funded by the Kaiser Permanente Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institute for Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders.