New Data Show Behavioral Education Program Helps Patients Treated with Antipsychotic Medications Reduce Weight and Improve Overall Wellness

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Patients with severe and persistent mental illness treated with antipsychotic medications reported positive changes in diet, exercise, stress management, improved sleep, and increased confidence in maintaining these lifestyle changes after participating in the Solutions for Wellness Personalized Program (SFWPP), new data show.

The findings, presented today at the College of Psychiatric & Neurologic Pharmacists Annual Meeting, also indicate that those who made positive changes in diet experienced weight loss and reduced Body Mass Index (BMI). The Solutions for Wellness Personalized Program is a customized weight management plan that helps patients with serious mental illness such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, lose weight, reduce BMI and improve overall wellness.

"[The Solutions for Wellness Personalized Program] gave me direction on how to improve my eating habits, start an exercise regimen and think about weight loss differently. In short, it helped me build up my self-esteem," said one participant. Another participant indicated that, "it's easier for me to get out and exercise. It's easier for me to eat healthy, to plan meals, to look at myself and say, 'I don't have to be heavy and I don't have to be overweight,' I can be happier with myself."

Patients with severe and persistent mental illness are at increased risk for weight gain and obesity due to various factors, including sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition, and lack of access to adequate medical care, nutritional and exercise programs. In addition, many medications used to treat mental illness, including atypical antipsychotic medications, may cause weight gain. The Solutions for Wellness Personalized Program, created by the Patient Marketing Group, Inc. and sponsored by Eli Lilly and Company, is a free, six-month program available for healthcare professionals to offer their patients diagnosed with a serious mental illness. The program provides individualized education on nutrition, exercise, stress management and sleep improvement, and support for improving overall wellness.

The Solutions for Wellness Personalized Program helps healthcare professionals provide better quality care by emphasizing the importance of treating both the mind and the body of the patient. As one physician noted, "we as mental health professionals don't have much to offer in terms of weight management . … This is something above and beyond what I can offer patients." Another physician reported, "SFWPP is additional support outside my area of expertise that I can provide patients. It is a tremendous tool for me."

Key Findings

By the end of the first year of the six-month Solutions for Wellness program, 7,188 individuals with mental illness had voluntarily enrolled. Ninety percent of these participants had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of at least 25 at the start of the program. Individualized weight management plans were created for each participant, and participants received newsletters and progress updates throughout the duration of the program. Weight and BMI were self-reported at baseline and at each follow-up survey. Changes in behavior, such as diet, exercise and personal attitudes were assessed with follow-up surveys.

  • At enrollment, 65 percent of participants reported that improving health and well-being was their overall goal.
  • After six months, 90 percent of participants reported positive changes in their diet, 85 percent improved their exercise regime, 94 percent enhanced their stress management techniques, and 93 percent made changes to their sleep habits.
  • Overall, participants in the program reported an average reduction in BMI of nearly one point (-0.93 kg/m2). A BMI reduction of one point (or 1 kg/m2) equates to a weight loss of about six or seven pounds, depending on the height of the individual.
  • In addition, 97 percent of participants reported having gained confidence in the ability to maintain lifestyle changes.

"We've understood for many years that those with a serious mental illness tend to struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle," said William Glazer, M.D., associate clinical professor of Psychiatry, Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School. "They are at greater-than- average risk of weight gain and obesity due to the combination of inactive, unhealthy lifestyles and treatment with various psychotropic medications, which can be associated with weight gain. This sometimes results in patients stopping their medications without telling their clinicians or switching to less effective medications. This program shows that a more complete wellness treatment approach can help patients manage their weight, comply with therapy, and feel better about themselves."


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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