A paper published in the Lancet on Wednesday shows that commercial weight-loss programmes may be more effective than those provided within primary care.
A study conducted in Australia, Germany, and the UK allocated patients to either 12 months of standard care or 12 months of free membership to Weight Watchers. The results showed that those treated at Weight Watchers lost more weight (5Kg on average) than those on standard care (2.25Kg) and a greater proportion of patients completed the Weight Watchers programme than standard care treatment. Although a formal cost analysis was not carried out, the researchers suggested that the commercial programme may be cheaper than standard care.
This is one area where patient choice could be expanded. Assuming that the Weight Watchers programme is no more expensive than in-house care, patients should be given a choice between the two options. They will then be able to chose the type of care which best meets their needs, and which they feel will be most likely to help them lose weight. Under the changes proposed in the health bill Clinical Commissioning Groups will be able to commission ‘any qualified provider’ to provide care, presumably including Weight Watchers.
A greater focus is needed on obesity in this country, to prevent a future epidemic of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. If Weight Watchers can help us to tackle these problems, their use should be encouraged.