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Effectiveness of Employee Internet-Based Weight Management Program

Petersen, Ruth MD, MPH; Sill, Stewart MS; Lu, Chifung MS; Young, Joyce MD, MPH; Edington, Dee W. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: February 2008 - Volume 50 - Issue 2 - p 163-171
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31815c6cf6
Original Articles

Objective: To evaluate an employee Internet-based weight management program.

Methods: Changes in eating habits, stage of change, body weight, and weight categories were compared between enrollment and 6 months after enrollment. Weights and weight categories were compared among a subset of participants and non-participants at 12 months.

Results: Seven thousand seven hundred forty-three International Business Machines employees enrolled in the program between December 2004 and February 2006, and 74% were overweight or obese (body mass index ≥25). At 6 months, follow-up survey respondents (1639) had significantly increased most healthy eating habits (eg, 20% decrease in junk foods) and the frequency of healthy foods eaten (eg, 12% increase in fruits). The percentage of participants in the normal weight category had increased from 27.0% to 29.8%, while average weight decreased from 182.6 to 180.2 lbs (P < 0.05). Increased web site usage was associated with increased weight loss and stage of change improvements. At 12 months, a higher percentage of participants had moved into the normal weight category compared with the percentage of non-participants (+2.0% points; P < 0.05), although there were no differences in average weight change.

Conclusions: Despite issues of limited penetration and potential self-selection, this Internet-based program had utility in reaching a large number of employees in dispersed work settings, and it led to improved eating habits and improved stage of change at 6 months and more individuals moving into the normal weight category at 6 and 12 months.

From the Analysts International and UNC School of Public Health (Dr Petersen), Chapel Hill, NC; IBM, Global Well-being Services and Health Benefits (Drs Sill and Young), Research Triangle Park, NC; and University of Michigan Health Management Research Center (Drs Lu and Edington), Ann Arbor, Mich.

Address correspondence to: Stewart Sill, MS, IBM, Global Well-being Services and Health Benefits, 3039 Cornwallis Road, Durham, NC 27709; E-mail:

©2008The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine