Anti-obesity program for kids successfully reconfigured for adults

Promising study has led to successful San Antonio-based program

By Courtney Friedman - VJ, Reporter

SAN ANTONIO - Programs are constantly improved to steer Texas children away from obesity, but those same programs haven't been applied to adults, until now.

A new study showing lots of success has led to the creation of the Bienestar health program, developed in San Antonio at the nonprofit Social & Health Research Center. It's being called the first research to measure the effectiveness of Medicare-funded intensive behavior therapy for obesity in a primary care setting

Program patient Diana Castro said she feels like she has a new lease on life.

"I was at a point where I thought that I was just going to be diabetic, obese for the rest of my life, struggling to walk with a cane at the age of 46. And here I am at 48 and 75 pounds down and very active. I do Zumba four times a week," she said. 

Castro spent the past two years taking part in Dr. Roberto Trevino's Bienestar health program. It stemmed from a program for elementary and middle school students that has been used in Texas schools for decades.

"So we said we have a program that works in children. How do we translate this experience and knowledge to adults? It’s a tougher population," Trevino said.

Trevino said the program hadn't been transitioned before because Medicare and insurance companies weren't reimbursing doctors for these types of therapies. That has since changed, and Trevino began his research. 

His new program based on his study includes 20 sessions a year. Trevino's study followed 600 adults over four years. He said the results showed if patients came to four to eight sessions, they were able to lose 2 and a half pounds. If they came to more than eight sessions, they were able to lose eight pounds. 

"For each pound an adult loses, they can decrease their chance of having diabetes or hypertension by almost 20 percent. So one pound of weight loss has a significant impact," Trevino said.

The program is broken up into three main parts.

"They're learning about these very healthy foods, but they're also learning how much do I have to walk or what level do I need to increase my heart rate to start reaching a benefit and start burning fat or lowering blood sugars?" Trevino said.

The second part is creating an awareness of how lifestyle and behavior choices relate to diabetes, obesity or hypertension.

"Lastly, we teach them behavior techniques like self-monitoring, goal setting, self-reflection," he explained.

Castro said her favorite part of the program is the one-on-one interaction.

"On a weekly basis, on a daily basis, has helped me to stay focused, to stay on track and just be more conscious of what I'm eating and drinking," she said.

She also said she doesn't feel deprived.

"It’s not about losing 20 pounds in a month. It’s doing it one pound at a time, one day at a time, one meal at a time. It’s kind of catered to you as an individual of what are your likes and dislikes? What are you willing to give up and not give up? Because they never want you to feel hungry," Castro said.

She said she finally sees a future filled with healthy and exciting possibilities. 

"One of my goals, maybe in the future, becoming a Zumba instructor," she said.

The full results of Trevino's study will be released in March in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

Trevino's goal is to have the program implemented in doctors' offices and clinics.

Anyone interested in the program can call (210) 533-8886 or visit www.sahrc.org. The program is currently held at 1302 S. St. Mary’s St.

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