Overton Brooks VA Medical Center
MOVE! Part I: An Introduction to Weight Management
Obesity is taking on smoking as the nation's number one cause of preventable death in the U.S. and using a slew of weapons do it including high cholesterol, heart disease and hypertension according to National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (NCP) literature.
"A high percentage of the Veteran population is overweight as well," Emily Walker said. "In many cases, they may be at more risk than most others."
Walker, MOVE! Coordinator for Overton Brooks VA Medical Center, is responsible for the local MOVE! Weight Management Program for Veterans; a program initiated by the NCP to combat the growing trend of obesity.
What Veterans can expect—an approach that targets overall behavior, not just eating. The program focuses on those aspects of the Veteran's life that are leading to unhealthy weight gain, using the talents of a dietitian, health behavior coordinator, and kinesiotherapist to insure the Veteran's success. Despite these disciplines, the program's approach is simple.
"The key is diet and exercise—diet for losing weight and exercise for keeping it off," Walker said. "So far we have a patient who lost two hundred pounds and has maintained his weight for two years. He speaks to our group members and keeps them motivated. His story is amazing."
Although many of the program's participants were referred by a physician, such referrals are not necessary. Walker also encourages younger Veterans to join the program.
"We have some who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom who are in the program," Walker said, "so our patients range from early twenties to seventies. Any Veteran can join the program if he or she feels the need to lose weight and stay healthy. Veterans who are interested can call us at 318-990-5023."
According to Walker, the first step involves a Body Mass Index (BMI) of the would-be participant. A BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight with 30 serving as the mile marker for obesity. Beyond this point, Veterans have three options when participating in MOVE! — group, individual, and TeleMOVE!. However, Walker reminds Veterans that these options were not created equal.
"Our group session is the most successful," Walker said. "This option lasts for eight weeks and meets once a week on a Thursday, either at 10:30 a.m. or 1 p.m. depending on the Veteran’s preference. These are 'closed groups,' meaning that you HAVE to start on the first week and not on week three."
Walker reminds Veterans not to be discouraged if they miss the first week of a "closed group." This just means more one-on-one time between her and those joining the program at a later date.
"We exercise the individual option until the next group begins," Walker said. "Meeting face-to-face starts the Veteran on a healthier path while keeping him or her motivated. They may continue this option if they decide that group just isn't for them." This leaves TeleMOVE! as the last option, with the veteran doing most, if not all, of his or her communication on the phone via automated service and, routinely, a member of the VA staff.
"With TeleMOVE!, the participant receives an automated phone call every day that asks the patient for information and reminds them to weigh in," Walker said. "The patient uses the touch pad to answer the questions from the phone call. If the nurse or dietician needs to reach the patient, they may call them directly."
All options include keeping diet and exercise journals, and guidance on how to change the negative behaviors that lead to weight gain.
"It's hard being the only member of a family who is trying to live a healthier life, especially if his or her spouse is overweight," Walker said. "They may be guilted by others in their social circle to get off track because it makes others feel worse about themselves. They may also indirectly lead to problems with portion control. For these reasons, it's important to have that support."
A branch of this program, MOVEmployee, extends to VA employees. Many of the same professionals who work with Veterans use this program to assist members of the VA workforce in their efforts to lose weight.