Sustainable weight loss study being conducted at a local, community, nonprofit health care center involving online education, mobile application diet tracking, and individual counseling


Avicenna Community Health Care logoAcademic mentor: Prof. Manabu Nakamura 

Community partner: Avicenna Community Health Center

Community-Academic Scholar: Muskaan Sawhney

Project description:
The EMPOWER project aims to deliver a sustainable, cost-effective, and community-based dietary-focused weight loss management program to local, low-income patients who are overweight or obese. Dietary aspects of EMPOWER focus on increasing protein and fiber density through the use of a protein-fiber plot where protein per calorie and fiber per calorie are plotted two-dimensionally together. EMPOWER’s primary objectives are clinically significant weight loss and improvements in individual specific health parameters, such as blood pressure or blood glucose control.

EMPOWER is a two-year program: one year of online education and counseling focused on weight loss with an additional year of follow-up focused on weight maintenance. Outcome measures include weight change measured by daily weighing and dietary improvements measured by 24-hour records and food frequency questionnaires. In addition to online education via E-Text, participants will use an in-house created mobile application to track their dietary habits and weight. EMPOWER is based upon the Individual Dietary Improvement program which resulted in greater than 5% weight loss over 12 months. Participants also significantly increased the protein and fiber contents of their diets.

Avicenna Community Health Center (ACHC) is a local, free clinic that cares for EMPOWER’s target population. Individuals with overweight- or obesity-related comorbidities will be provided the opportunity to participate in EMPOWER. The objective of this collaboration is to provide this underserved population with weight management that would otherwise not be available to them. Overall, program participation is expected to improve patients’ quality of life and health outcomes.

Role of the Community-Academic Scholar:
The Community-Academic Scholar will collaborate with Dr. Manabu Nakamura and Ashleigh Oliveira to bring EMPOWER to ACHC. They will assist in participant screening, consent, and enrollment; data collection and analysis via surveys; direct communication with the patient population; and patient progress evaluation. Should recruitment from Avicenna not meet a sufficient number of participants, the scholar will perform similar responsibilities with the EMPOWER study’s community population from Carle Foundation Hospital.

The majority of the EMPOWER project is facilitated online, however, a single in-person meeting at the initiation of the study is conducted for baseline measurements. Pending the state of the pandemic, the scholar will be actively involved at this meeting and learn to collect body measurements, including waist and hip circumference, blood pressure, BMI, and body composition.