A CSIRO-led weight loss program has rolled out in 300 Australian pharmacies and enrolled more than 38,000 patients since 2014
Delivered in pharmacy and online, the Impromy program has harnessed the skills of pharmacy staff with the aim to help patients achieve their weight loss goals.
Many of the counsellors who deliver the program are pharmacists as well as trained pharmacy assistants, while dietitians have been used to support and train them.
“CSIRO developed the concept for how the program might work in pharmacy and we also developed the prototype for the program,” says Professor Manny Noakes, Research Director for the Food and Nutrition Flagship at the CSIRO.
“We clinically tested it, as well as created materials, clinical support tools, recipes for the main meals, and reviewed the formulation of the meal replacement products.”
Development was carried out in partnership with Probiotec, a company that manufactures the meal replacement product used as part of the initiative.
So why did CSIRO choose pharmacies as the setting for the weight loss program?
“We felt pharmacies were already well-established in providing health services and we believe they are reputable and perceived by the community to provide a good service,” explains Professor Noakes.
“CSIRO felt it’s a good environment to run a weight-loss program, in a setting that already health-focused. We wanted to keep the reach of the program as broad as possible.”
In addition to weight loss support, Impromy also involves screening and regular health checks for measures including blood pressure, total cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
“The pharmacy environment provides an opportunity for point-of-care testing, and a lot of pharmacies are doing this already,” adds Professor Noakes.
Pharmacists and pharmacy assistants can refer participants to a GP if any health issues emerge or for those who need medical supervision while on the program, Professor Noakes points out.
“What’s important is the ability of the program to support people through the journey, not just taking a product off the shelf.”
Griffith University undertook a review of the program results in its first full year based on data drawn from GuildCare, the system used for the program.
The population-based study of nearly 4,000 participants found they achieved weight loss averaging 7.2% of their body mass over 12 weeks.
“That’s a very good weight loss because 5% is associated with health benefits,” says Professor Noakes.
And more than 25% of individuals on the program lost greater than 10%.
Griffith Uni researchers also saw improvements in key health measures including total cholesterol and blood pressure, concluding that the program offers “additional benefits for weight loss”.
The results showed that clear trend for a reduction in systolic blood pressure for those with higher blood pressure on the Impromy program, although the data also suggest that those that have low blood pressure at entry experienced an increase in systolic blood pressure.
Consistent with these observed effects, those with higher diastolic blood pressure had a greater reduction that those with normal blood pressure.
Results also suggested that participants may have a reduction in blood glucose, but researchers say this needs to be confirmed in a larger cohort.
“[Impromy] is the only widely-distributed program that looks at this intersection between weight and health and their effects on one another,” explains a Probiotec spokesperson.
The researchers conclude that the results, compared with other weight management programs in Australia, provide promising evidence that Impromy’s inclusion of pharmacy and online support may lead to a greater reduction in weight than the use of these programs in their traditional form.
See the Griffith University report here.