Obesity is an urgent national epidemic with a long-lasting negative impact on the general sense of health and well-being.
It is projected that in just eight years (by 2030), 85% of American adults will be overweight, which in turn will increase obesity-related medical costs. Studies have found that medical spending for people with obesity can be 42% to 150% higher than people of normal weight.
People who struggle with obesity are at increased risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, musculoskeletal issues, and some cancers that are known to negatively impact quality of life and shorten lifespan. For people who are obese while also having a chronic condition, medical spending rises even higher.
There is hope on the horizon, as there have been many innovations in the last few years aimed at helping people better manage their weight. Newer weight loss regimens may include prescription weight loss drugs paired with individualized tools and support, improved medication adherence, as well as behavioral and lifestyle changes.
Professional counseling for additional motivation
Healthcare professionals such as doctors, nurses, health coaches, dietitians and more are key partners in the safe and effective treatment of obesity. These professionals are trained to provide medical assessment, management, counseling and coordination of treatment. For example, health coaches can help patients determine diet, the right exercise plan and more. Research finds that obese patients who receive counseling and weight management from doctors, for example, are significantly more likely to participate in weight management programs and achieve their goals than those who do not.
In addition, a health professional can assess behavioral health risk factors that are associated with and potentially impact a person’s weight management outcomes. Research suggests that for many people who struggle with obesity, there are psychosocial factors and root causes for their illness, which is also something that a physician, with the help of a behavioral therapist, can help assess and address.
“The people who are most successful in their weight loss journeys are those who work with a trained professional to learn how to make better food choices, dispel common food myths, track their macro and micronutrient intake , learn how to add meaningful exercise to their daily lives, and most importantly, work to create new, healthier habits that stick,” said Dr. Mandeep Brar, medical director at Cigna.
Tools and support, medication adherence and lifestyle changes
SafeGuardRx for Cigna is a program designed to lower costs and improve health outcomes for people living with chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The program provides one-on-one counseling and support to clients living with diabetes or pulmonary conditions. Through proactive outreach, our specially trained clinicians help clients better understand their medications, offer ways to encourage adherence, and can even connect them to Cigna condition coaching or behavioral health resources.
As part of an expansion of the SafeGuardRx program, Cigna now offers customers the SafeGuardRx for Cigna weight management program. This new program is designed to help clients develop a personalized approach to their weight loss journey and avoid long-term health costs attributed to obesity. Patients get 24/7 access to online, live doctor consultation (up to six free consultations) and prescriptions if applicable through MDLIVE. The program also includes prescription weight loss medications when appropriate, along with personal coaching, specialized pharmacists and other clinicians to support patients and encourage medication adherence to successfully manage weight.
“SafeGuardRx for Cigna Weight Management is another way Cigna is leveraging Express Scripts’ unparalleled supply chain partnerships to unlock new value through innovative contracting strategies and to drive further value back to customers with new innovative patient support tools,” said Dr. Brar said.
However, weight loss medication is only one component of an effective comprehensive weight loss plan. Long-term lifestyle changes are an important part of a good treatment regimen. There are many tools available to help people make the necessary changes.
For example, Omada for Cigna customers is an online program that inspires healthy, long-term weight management habits. The program includes
- A full-time health coach to keep participants on track
- A wireless scale to monitor progress
- An interactive program that adapts to the participant
- Weekly online lessons to educate and inspire
- A small group of participants for real-time support
“Omada’s approach combines science with personal support and digital technology to help participants build healthy habits around eating, activity, sleep and stress,” said Dr. Brar said. “The program’s human-centered design, empathetic health coaches and smart technology work together to help members stay engaged.”