Our Science

 We design, test, and disseminate digital obesity treatments. We’re especially interested in integrating digital health treatments into the primary care setting, particularly those that serve medically vulnerable patients. We developed the interactive obesity treatment approach (iOTA), have authored more than 125 scientific papers, and our research program has been continuously supported by the National Institutes of Health. You can find an almost complete list of our papers here. Here are some of our specific areas of interest:

Using digital treatments to improve weight loss outcomes

The inability to reliably produce clinically meaningful weight loss among medically vulnerable populations has been a persistent public health challenge. During the past half-decade, we have made important strides in using digital health technology to improve obesity treatment among medically vulnerable adults. The majority of these trials have been conducted in the primary care setting. We have demonstrated the ability to create scalable, fully automated, and highly personalized intervention technologies that produce high rates of engagement and deliver clinically meaningful outcomes in high-risk patient populations.

Embedding digital treatments in primary care

Nationally, few low-cost, evidence-based obesity treatments are available in the primary care setting. Although provider-delivered lifestyle counseling can be helpful, it occurs infrequently. Capacity and reimbursement issues constrain the widespread availability of primary care-based dietitian counseling services. Compounding the challenge, there has been little uptake of evidence-based behavioral weight management interventions in primary care. Indeed, very few studies have investigated the efficacy of behavioral weight management interventions in the primary care setting; even fewer of these studies have included sociodemographically diverse patient populations. In a series of efficacy and pragmatic effectiveness trials, we have demonstrated the effectiveness of primary care-based obesity treatments in a range of challenged care delivery settings.

Delivering comprehensive obesity care

Comprehensive obesity care includes more than weight loss treatment. Up to half of obese patients are uninterested in weight loss. Clinical practice guidelines recommend that these patients avoid weight gain prevention, but evidence-based treatment solutions are not available in the primary care setting. We provided the first evidence of an efficacious weight gain prevention treatment approach for the primary care setting.

Using digital treatments to improve population health

With the increasing penetration of mobile devices, we’ve seen great shifts in the digital divide. Populations that were historically disconnected now utilize mobile devices in ways that sometime exceed their more advantaged counterparts. This has raised the exciting possibility of utilizing digital health approaches to contend with health disparities. We have been leaders in advancing discussions about how to leverage the digital revolution to improve population health.