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The effect of participation in a weight loss programme on short-term health resource utilization

van Walraven C, Dent R. J Eval Clin Pract. 2002; 8(1):37-44.

Obese people consume significantly greater amounts of health resources. This study set out to determine if health resource utilization by obese people decreases after losing weight in a comprehensive medically supervised weight management programme. Four hundred and fifty-six patients enrolled in a single-centred, multifaceted weight loss programme in a universal health care system were studied. Patient information was anonymously linked with administrative databases to measure health resource utilization for I year before and after the programme. Mean body mass index (BMI) decreased by more than 15%. The mean annual physician visits (pre = 9.6, post = 9.4) did not change significantly after the programme. However, patients saw a significantly fewer number of different physicians per year following the programme (pre = 4.5, post = 3.9; P < 0.001). Mean annual number of emergency visits (pre = 0.2; post = 0.2) and hospital admissions (pre = 0.05; post = 0.08) did not change. Neither baseline BMI, nor its change during the programme, influenced changes in health resource utilization. This study suggests that weight loss in a supervised weight management programme does not necessarily decrease short-term health resource utilization. Further study is required to determine if patients who maintain their weight loss experience a decrease in health utilization.

Keywords: Health care utilization Obesity