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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Researchers Look Inside ‘Black Box’ Of Weight Management Interventions

In the United States, young adults are experiencing the greatest rates of weight gain, paired with increasing rates of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. The public health burden among young adults due to obesity is only expected to grow in the future, driving an urgent need for effective weight‐related interventions.

One attempt to respond to this looming health crisis was the “Early Adult Reduction of weight through LifestYle” (EARLY) program — a National Institutes of Health (NIH)‐funded cooperative agreement of seven randomized controlled weight management trials with 17 different treatment interventions.

A recent study led by researchers at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health made use of this unique opportunity to increase understanding of the behavioral strategies used in weight‐related interventions. A study team deconstructed the individual behavioral change techniques (BCTs) used in each EARLY intervention in order to learn how often and in which combinations specific techniques were employed.

The full article on their findings, titled “Deconstructing Weight Management Interventions for Young Adults: Looking Inside the Black Box of the EARLY Consortium Trials,” was published online May 28 in the journal Obesity. Drs. Leslie Lytle and Deborah Tate, both dual professors of nutrition and health behavior at the Gillings School, were co-authors on the paper.

“Weight management interventions are notoriously complex,” Lytle said. “Often, we put as many strategies into our behavior change interventions as our resources allow, but that approach is inefficient. As a field, we need to start identifying the most important ‘active ingredients’ that will help people change their health behaviors.”

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