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JOURNAL ARTICLE
RANDOMIZED CONTROLLED TRIAL

Does brief telephone support improve engagement with a web-based weight management intervention? Randomized controlled trial

Laura Dennison, Leanne Morrison, Scott Lloyd, Dawn Phillips, Beth Stuart, Sarah Williams, Katherine Bradbury, Paul Roderick, Elizabeth Murray, Susan Michie, Paul Little, Lucy Yardley
Journal of Medical Internet Research 2014 March 28, 16 (3): e95
24681761

BACKGROUND: Recent reviews suggest Web-based interventions are promising approaches for weight management but they identify difficulties with suboptimal usage. The literature suggests that offering some degree of human support to website users may boost usage and outcomes.

OBJECTIVE: We disseminated the POWeR ("Positive Online Weight Reduction") Web-based weight management intervention in a community setting. POWeR consisted of weekly online sessions that emphasized self-monitoring, goal-setting, and cognitive/behavioral strategies. Our primary outcome was intervention usage and we investigated whether this was enhanced by the addition of brief telephone coaching. We also explored group differences in short-term self-reported weight loss.

METHODS: Participants were recruited using a range of methods including targeted mailouts, advertisements in the local press, notices on organizational websites, and social media. A total of 786 adults were randomized at an individual level through an online procedure to (1) POWeR only (n=264), (2) POWeR plus coaching (n=247), or (3) a waiting list control group (n=275). Those in the POWeR plus coaching arm were contacted at approximately 7 and 28 days after randomization for short coaching telephone calls aimed at promoting continued usage of the website. Website usage was tracked automatically. Weight was assessed by online self-report.

RESULTS: Of the 511 participants allocated to the two intervention groups, the median number of POWeR sessions completed was just one (IQR 0-2 for POWeR only, IQR 0-3 for POWeR plus coach). Nonetheless, a substantial minority completed at least the core three sessions of POWeR: 47 participants (17.8%, 47/264) in the POWeR-only arm and 64 participants (25.9%, 64/247) in the POWeR plus coaching arm. Participants in the POWeR plus coaching group persisted with the intervention for longer and were 1.61 times more likely to complete the core three sessions than the POWeR-only group (χ(2) 1=4.93; OR 1.61, 95% CI 1.06-2.47; n=511). An intention-to-treat analysis showed between-group differences in weight loss (F2,782=12.421, P<.001). Both intervention groups reported more weight loss than the waiting list control group. Weight loss was slightly, but not significantly, greater in the POWeR plus coaching group. A large proportion of participants assigned to POWeR plus coaching refused phone calls or were not contactable (57.9%, 143/247). Exploratory analyses identified health and sociodemographic differences between those who did and did not engage in coaching when it was made available to them. Users who engaged with coaching used the intervention more and lost more weight than those who did not.

CONCLUSIONS: In common with most Web-based intervention studies, usage of POWeR was suboptimal overall. However, our findings suggest that supplementing Web-based weight management with brief human support could improve usage and outcomes in those who take it up.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: International Standard Randomized Controlled Trial Number (ISRCTN): 98176068; http://www.controlled-trials.com/ISRCTN98176068 (Archived by WebCite at http://www.webcitation.org/6OKRjM2oy).

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