To Tip the Scales on the Obesity Epidemic, Health Plans Must Learn What Members Hate

Aug 11, 2022 10:00:00 AM

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About 4 out of 10 Americans (42%) are obese, twice the number 20 years ago, and new data show that trend will likely continue. A study published in the Journal of Obesity found that more than half of Americans gained 5% or more body weight over a 10-year-period, more than a third gained 10% or more and nearly a fifth gained 20% or more.

“The U.S. obesity epidemic is not slowing down,” concluded lead author Larry Tucker, a BYU professor of exercise science.

That’s bad news for health insurance providers who will end up carrying some of the financial burden. Harvard researchers calculated that adult obesity is associated with $170 billion in excess healthcare costs per year in the U.S., and severe adult obesity contributes to $3,097 in excess annual costs per person.

Health insurers know they can help lower these costs by helping members engage in healthier habits like diet and exercise, but how can they keep them engaged for the long-term? To answer that question, Yes Health has collected five common complaints prospective participants share about weight loss programs and how we address them to tip the scale on weight loss:

Complaint #1: I don’t have time for meetings or video conference calls.

Time is a valuable commodity these days, with many people working long hours, juggling kids’ schedules and commuting long distances. The last thing they need or want is another scheduled meeting or commitment. 

Yes Health uses an on-demand model where coaches message or chat with members when the members need it. Members can post a picture of their meal or activity for the day and receive encouragement and feedback within a few hours (usually within minutes). Or they can send a question to the team of Yes Health coaches and receive a quick response from the coach with expertise in that area.

Complaint #2: Shame and guilt don’t motivate me to overcome the bumps.

Accountability is helpful for anyone trying to accomplish a big goal, but when the tone turns negative and judgmental, people tend to cut their losses and quit.

Yes Health coaches aim for a very positive, “You can do this!” approach to weight loss coaching. Their goal is to work with members to determine small, manageable goals, and then guide members toward positive changes that can help achieve those goals. 

When members face challenges or setbacks, the coaches offer suggestions to help the individuals reset and move forward. Craving ice cream? Try stocking the fridge with a healthier alternative like fruit sorbet. Haven’t found time to exercise? This week, try taking two 15-minute breaks each day to play something active with your kids or take a brisk, head-clearing walk. Yes Health coaches focus not on what members didn’t do, but what they can do.

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Complaint #3: Food logging and calorie counting are tedious and uninspiring. Plus, I miss eating the foods I like.

Strategies like food diaries or restrictive diets can be effective in the short term, but they risk leading participants to over-focus on the practice, rather than on small, one-meal-at-a-time adjustments to the meals they already enjoy. Over time, most people grow weary of the discipline and quit altogether, leaving them right where they started…or worse.

Yes Health takes a more flexible and lifestyle-sensitive approach to weight loss coaching. We meet clients where they are and work with them on a daily basis to implement healthy habits or make small adjustments that are both sustainable and successful. If a client loves fried chicken, we can offer an oven-baked version that provides all the crunch with half the calories. If someone wants to get more active but hates the gym, Yes Health has a whole library of fitness videos demonstrating exercises the members can do right at home. This customized approach, enabled by daily contact with coaches, promotes high engagement and high retainment.

Complaint #4: I only get to meet with a coach weekly, which is too little, too late.

Weight loss is a day by day (even moment by moment) journey, which is why once-a-week coaching appointments or weigh-ins fall short. The in-the-moment decisions or questions never get discussed, which means dozens of missed opportunities for encouragement and coaching.

Yes Health utilizes an in-the-moment coaching model, where members and coaches interact daily through posts and messages. A member can post a photo of a meal or workout and receive immediate feedback -- for instance: “Great-looking salad with a healthy variety of vegetables. You could increase your protein intake and sustain your energy a bit longer if you add a few ounces of grilled chicken, legumes (like chickpeas) or nuts.” Or, members can ask questions about nutrition, fitness or wellness. They receive quick feedback so they can make the just-in-time decisions that further progress on their goals.

Many people want to lose weight and feel better. They want to prevent chronic diseases and enjoy long, active lives. What’s missing is the self-confidence and motivation to make the necessary changes. They have tried and failed, so maybe a healthy weight is just not possible. Yes Health is changing that narrative through all-digital, in-the-moment coaching that makes weight loss accessible and achievable. 

To learn more strategies for reducing chronic diseases through member engagement, download our free ebook: “Prevent Costly Chronic Disease Through Member Engagement.”

See for yourself why health plans and businesses are saying “yes” to effective affordable programs for Health Weight, Diabetes Prevention and Concierge Health. Schedule a consultation today!