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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

South Florida: Using the Internet to Reduce Diabetes Risk Inexpensively

There are more cost-effective ways to combat obesity and its related health issues, according to new research, and the answer is just a click away. USF College of Public Health’s Dr. Janice Zgibor, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology and Biostatics, and colleagues found that providing an online adaptation of a diabetes prevention lifestyle intervention provides a more economical approach than usual care.

“There isn’t a one size fits all [intervention],” Dr. Zgibor said. “We need to meet the needs of the population.” Their study, “Cost effectiveness of an internet-delivered lifestyle intervention in primary care patients with high cardiovascular risk,” is published in the February 2016 issue of Preventive Medicine.

Dr. Zgibor and colleagues assessed the cost-effectiveness of an online adaptation of the diabetes prevention program lifestyle intervention at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The weight loss intervention was comprised of 16 weekly and 8 monthly lessons focused on healthy lifestyle behaviors. The online intervention included behavioral tools and regular, short web-based individualized counseling in an overweight, obese cohort. They examined the cost-effectiveness of the online intervention program in reducing metabolic risk over a ten year period.

The study found that, overall, this internet-based program was cost-effective compared with usual care.Previous research has shown a new strategy is considered cost-effective if it falls below a designated threshold value. For this study, researchers used the threshold value of $100,000 per quality-adjusted life-year gained—a commonly cited benchmark in contemporary U.S. healthcare, according to the study. From a health care system perspective, while the online prevention program cost $591 more to deliver than usual care, the total cost of the program—$14,351 falls below the $100,000 threshold value, making it cost-effective.

When examined from a societal perspective, which included direct nonmedical costs, the total cost of delivering the program cost $29,331 per quality-adjusted life-year gained, also well below the $100,000 threshold benchmark.Dr. Kenneth Smith, professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and cost analyst for the study, said that cost-effectiveness analysis seeks to determine the value of added dollars spent in improving health.

“Our analysis found that money spent on a program to prevent overweight and obesity bought additional health very affordably compared to most other medical interventions,” Dr. Smith said.

Obesity is a serious concern, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, because of its association with the leading causes of death in the U.S.—diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancers. According to the CDC, more than one-third of U.S. adults are obese. In 2014 no state in the U.S had a prevalence of obesity less than 20 percent.

“This type of work is really important so that insurers start to pay attention toP prevention, rather than waiting until obesity causes a sickness,” Dr. Zgibor said. “Let’s see if we can take the clock back and prevent it.”

For more information visit USF College of Public Health News