Job G. Godino 1 , 2 , 3 , Natalie M. Golaszewski 1 , 2 , Greg J. Norman 1 , 2 , 3 , Cheryl L. Rock 1 , William G. Griswold 4 , Elva Arredondo 5 , Simon Marshall 1 , 2 , 3 , Julie Kolodziejczyk 1 , 2 , Lindsay Dillon 1 , Fred Raab 1 , 2 , Sonia Jain 1 , Maggie Crawford 1 , Gina Merchant 1 , Kevin Patrick 1 , 2 , 3 , *
25 September 2019
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.
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/m 2) 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.
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.
Overweight and obese adults have increased risk for several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and many types of cancer.
Most effective weight loss interventions are costly, require in-person behavioral counseling, and lack evidence of long-term effectiveness.
We sought to determine whether weight loss content delivered by text message alone or in combination with brief, technology-mediated contact with health coaches that is scalable can improve weight loss among English- and Spanish-speaking adults.
We examined the efficacy of a 1-year randomized controlled trial designed to reduce weight among overweight and obese English- and Spanish-speaking adults via theory- and evidence-based, personalized, tailored, and interactive text messaging alone (ConTxt) or in combination with brief, monthly health-coaching calls.
At 12 months, mean percent weight loss, adjusted for baseline body mass index, was significantly different between ConTxt plus health-coaching calls and the control group but not between ConTxt only and the control group. The combined intervention resulted in a weight loss equal to 3.6%, contrasted against those in the control who lost 0.6%, at 1 year among a diverse sample of English- and Spanish-speaking adults who were overweight or obese.
A 1-year intervention that delivered theory- and evidence-based weight loss content via daily personalized, tailored, and interactive text messaging was most effective when combined with brief, monthly phone calls.
Given the high scalability of our intervention, these results represent an intriguing weight loss approach, particularly among hard-to-reach populations who are disproportionately affected by the negative consequences of overweight and obesity.