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National Jewish Launches Weight-Loss Program



Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA) will be first to use unique telephonic and Internet program

Building on more than 20 years of experience with telephonic and behavioral change programs, National Jewish Medical and Research Center has launched a unique weight-loss program that relies on customized personal coaching, Internet education and support, and wireless activity monitors and scales. The program builds on a successful prototype previously offered to residents of rural Colorado. Five thousand members of the Colorado Public Employees’ Retirement Association (PERA)  will be the first customers to benefit from the program, called PERAFit.

“Our program is more than just a diet,” said David Tinkelman , MD, Vice President of Health Initiatives at National Jewish. “With coaching, education and electronic in-home objective feedback, we help people achieve long-term behavioral change and sustainable weight loss. We know of no other program that combines all these elements in this way.”

For more than 20 years National Jewish has operated the National Jewish Lung Line, a toll-free medical information service staffed by registered nurses. National Jewish was also one of the pioneers of telephonic disease management with successful programs in asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Currently, National Jewish operates tobacco quitlines for Colorado, Ohio, Iowa, Idaho and Montana.

“The weight-loss program was a natural extension of our previous efforts,” said Dr. Tinkelman.

National Jewish tested a prototype program, called GetFit Colorado , for residents of rural Colorado. It was free to participants and funded by a grant from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment with revenues from the Colorado tobacco tax. After completion of the six-month program, 90 percent of participants had lost weight, with an average loss of 11.75 pounds or 5.88 percent of their body weight. Numerous studies have indicated that health benefits begin when people lose 5 percent of their body weight.

The new program is an expanded version of GetFit Colorado, lasting a full year and including several extra elements. Counselors help participants create a customized weight-loss program, then coach them with 15 phone calls during the year. Participants follow a self-paced educational program on the Internet, which helps them understand the links between diet, exercise, health and weight. Patients also receive a scale and an activity monitor, which they clip onto their shoes. The monitors and the scale send radio signals to a small device plugged into their computers, which then document their daily activity and weight on a personalized Web page. Participants will know all day long how much activity they have done and how many calories have been burned that day. Participants can also list foods they have eaten into a food journal, and the Internet site will automatically count up the calories they have consumed. The program also has specialized information for participants with type II diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Up to 5,000 PERA members who are Anthem Blue Cross clients will have access to PERAFit program. National Jewish expects to expand its program in the future by offering it primarily to health plans and large employers.

"We are excited to partner with National Jewish in offering the PERAFit program to our retirees who participate in Anthem,” said Meredith Williams, PERA’s Executive Director. “We hear from retirees that they want us to help them manage their healthcare costs. PERAFit will assist retirees in achieving their weight-management goals and that translates into healthier retirees with lower healthcare expenses."

Colorado PERA offers a voluntary retiree healthcare program called PERACare to over 77,000 retirees.  Colorado PERA, with assets of $41 billion, provides retirement and other benefits to over 410,000 current and former employees of over 400 government and public entities in the state of Colorado.

National Jewish Health is the leading respiratory hospital in the nation. Founded 125 years ago as a nonprofit hospital, National Jewish Health today is the only facility in the world dedicated exclusively to groundbreaking medical research and treatment of children and adults with respiratory, cardiac, immune and related disorders. Patients and families come to National Jewish Health from around the world to receive cutting-edge, comprehensive, coordinated care. To learn more, visit the media resources page.

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