Combating Adult Obesity: Is Mobile Health the Secret Weapon?

Obesity is serious – and costly. Weight that is higher than what is considered a healthy weight for a given height is described as overweight or obese. Body Mass Index, or BMI, is used as a screening tool for overweight or obesity. 
More than one-third (36.5%) of American adults are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It has been forecast that 42 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030. 

The American health care system faces an alarming increase in chronic diseases due to obesity-related conditions that include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and certain types of cancer. As of 2012, about half of all adult Americans had one or more chronic health condition. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion U.S. dollars in 2008. The medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight. Chronic diseases caused by obesity threaten to overwhelm the U.S. health care system – though it is preventable.


Preventing and controlling obesity through interventions aimed at improving weight-loss, reducing obesity-related complications, and changing dysfunctional personal behaviors is vital. But patients’ willpower alone is not the answer. What’s needed is an approach that avoids unnecessary costs and builds on existing initiatives and structures.


Behavioral weight loss treatment is an intensive treatment that is costly and not widely available. Mobile health (mhealth) technologies address and may modify the behavioral factors that lead to obesity and encourage a healthy lifestyle.

Mobile health could be described as the practice of medicine and public health, supported by mobile communication devices such as mobile phones, tablet computers, and the internet.

Self-monitoring is an essential behavioral strategy for successful weight loss programs. The Internet and mobile phones allow new features to be incorporated into treatment that may support greater adherence to self-monitoring processes, increase motivation for behavioral changes, and finally result in greater weight loss success.

According to the online research journal of the American Health Information Management Association (AHIMA) “mobile-based technological interventions were found to be more effective than conventional approaches in facilitating behavior modifications to promote weight loss and lifestyle changes to prevent and control adult obesity.” 

Mhealth technologies offer a chance to provide patients with remote psychological, medical, and nutritional support and education. Thus they may foster motivation, compliance, and engagement, which can contribute to cost reduction in managing obesity.

There is no secret weapon or simple solution to combat adult obesity. It’s a complex problem that needs a comprehensive approach. Mhealth is a good first step.


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