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KU Medical Center Gets $10M For Rural Obesity Study

The University of Kansas Medical Center will receive $10 million in federal funding to compare the effectiveness of obesity treatment models in rural communities.

The money is from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, which was created through the Affordable Care Act. Professor Christie Befort's study will track approximately 1,400 patients in rural Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Wisconsin.

Each will be assigned to a weight loss program. Some will be in a traditional fee-for-service model. Some will be treated through a patient-centered medical home. The rest will receive weight-loss management by phone. Their weight loss after two years will be measured to see if one model is more effective than the others.

The study is one of two obesity-focused studies that PCORI selected to explore ways to reduce disparities in health care and outcomes for people who are disproportionately affected by obesity.

Nearly 20 percent of Americans live in rural communities. Rural residents suffer disproportionately from obesity and have less access to effective weight loss programs.

“The results of this study have the potential to immediately influence how the treatment is delivered,” Befort says. “If the treatment approaches tested in this study meet the needs of rural patients, they could easily be adopted by other physicians, and have potential to affect payment policies, treatment guidelines and training of practitioners.”

The project — officially named the Midwestern Collaborative for Treating Obesity in Rural Primary Care — will last five years. Befort worked with a patient advisory panel to shape the treatment approaches and engaged with rural primary care providers, insurers, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Committee for Quality Assurance and state health departments.

“Obesity affects nearly 35 percent of the American adult population, and underserved populations, such as low-income and rural individuals, are at highest risk due to disparities, such as limited access to weight-management services,” says PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby. “This study will take a patient-centered approach to finding strategies that best address these patients’ needs, and we look forward to its progress and working with KU to share the results.”

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