New Initiative Aims to Reduce Obesity & Improve Health

November 9, 2017

A newly funded initiative will support better health by reducing obesity rates among seniors living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and in the Tidewater region of Virginia. Health Quality Innovators (HQI) is partnering with 180 primary care clinicians in the region to provide coaching to more than 10,000 older adults who are obese.

“Obesity is a serious public health issue which puts patients at risk for diabetes, heart disease and other chronic conditions,” said Donald A. Glozer, MHA, FACHE, president and chief executive officer of HQI. “This initiative is unique because it first helps people become more aware of their habits and develop an achievable action plan, which makes weight loss success more likely.”

The program, Intensive Behavioral Therapy for Obesity (IBT), is fully covered by Medicare; a patient co-payment is not required. Qualifying patients can receive up to 22 sessions in a one-year period.

HQI targeted these regions of Maryland and Virginia because they have some of the highest adult obesity rates in their respective states. Participating practices will benefit from HQI’s assistance to develop workflows for delivering IBT, use their electronic health record to track participation, train personnel in counseling and related administrative tasks, promote the program to patients, and measure results.

Obesity is diagnosed when an individual has a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 30 or greater. For example, a person who is five feet, four inches tall and weighs 175 pounds has a BMI of 30. Many studies have documented that losing as little as 5 to 10 percent of body weight can lower high blood pressure, reduce blood sugar and decrease cholesterol. Weight loss also can improve mobility and reduce hip and knee pain.

Funding for this two-year special innovation project, which totals $490,000, was provided to HQI by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). HQI has calculated that by the end of the funding period, IBT for Obesity will have saved Medicare as much as $2.76 million in health care costs because participating patients will have better control of their chronic conditions as a result of losing weight.

HQI is CMS’ Medicare Quality Innovation Network-Quality Improvement Organization (QIN-QIO) for Maryland and Virginia. Its improvement initiatives convene healthcare providers, patients and families, and stakeholder organizations for sustainable change that results in better care, healthier people and smarter health care spending.

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