Can Remote Health Coaching Generate Sustainable Weight Loss?

Nov. 9, 2021

For more information, contact Ted Griggs,, 225-288-8840

Study Will Enroll Black Patients with Obesity, Type 2 Diabetes in Baton Rouge, New Orleans

BATON ROUGE, Louisiana – Can the use of telemedicine with personalized health coaching help Black patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes lose weight and improve their heart health?

A new study backed by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health will examine the effectiveness of offering remote health coaching through primary care clinics. The study will also look at the factors that influence patients’ use of the weight-loss program and getting information about the program to the community.

“Type 2 diabetes is a major health concern in the United States, particularly in underserved and minority groups.  The issue has reached crisis level in the Deep South, which has the nation’s highest rates of obesity, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure and the shortest life expectancy,” said Peter Katzmarzyk, PhD, Associate Executive Director for Population and Public Health Sciences at Pennington Biomedical Research Center.  “Those numbers are even worse for Black residents.”

Still, there is hope.  

Modest weight loss – just 5 to 10 percent of a person’s body weight – can significantly lower the risk of heart disease, Dr. Katzmarzyk said.  Modest weight loss can also improve several other health measures, including a person’s blood sugar levels, mobility, their ability to get a good night’s sleep and quality of life.

Researchers at Pennington Biomedical and Ochsner Health in New Orleans plan to recruit around 350 people and randomly assign them for two years to either a weight-loss group or a group that receives the usual care for their diabetes.  Dr. Katzmarzyk is the project principal investigator for Pennington Biomedical.  Eboni Price-Haywood, MD, Medical Director, Ochsner Xavier Institute for Health Equity and Research, is the project principal investigator for Ochsner.

The Pennington Biomedical-Ochsner collaboration is one of three projects launched through the newly established Deep South Center to Reduce Disparities in Chronic Diseases, headed by the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
The other projects will:

• Investigate community-based strategies to reduce heart disease by working with the Alabama and Mississippi Cooperative Extension Services to combine lay health coaches and community gardens to encourage people to improve lifestyle and health behaviors. 

• Address food insecurity and transportation barriers and their impact on diabetes. The project will also include health coaching, remote patient monitoring and grocery delivery systems.

The new weight-loss study builds upon previous research conducted by Drs. Katzmarzyk and Price-Haywood and others showing a high-intensity, lifestyle-based program worked in lowering obesity for patients when conducted in primary care clinics, where a high percentage of participants were from low-income populations. 

The new study intends to increase equity by reaching people who might not have access to weight-loss programs limited to physical locations at primary care centers, instead allowing them to access to quality care, digitally, from anywhere.

The research not only builds on the incredible work done in advancing telemedicine to modernize health care for the 21st century but also aligns with Ochsner’s Healthy State initiative. Through partnerships and initiatives like the Deep South Center to Reduce Disparities in Chronic Diseases, Ochsner aims to help Louisiana rise above the bottom of national health rankings by 2030 by promoting more equitable healthcare for all.

“Making effective, evidence-based weight-loss strategies more accessible to underserved populations by increasing digital access through personalized primary care will help us address the rapid growth of diabetes, particularly in the Deep South’s minority population,” Dr.  Price-Haywood said. “Helping more people access intervention tailored specifically to their needs could have a major effect on local public health.”

Pennington Biomedical Executive Director John Kirwan, PhD, said losing weight and keeping it off is hard. 

“People who have obesity face another obstacle, the unfair stigma surrounding the disease. If we make treatment more convenient and comfortable, we can remove some of the obstacles to weight loss and help ease the heavy burden of obesity-related chronic diseases now borne by members of Louisiana’s underserved and minority communities,” Dr. Kirwan said.  

This research is supported by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities of the National Institutes of Health under award number 1P50MDO1738-01.   The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


About the Pennington Biomedical Research Center
The Pennington Biomedical Research Center is at the forefront of medical discovery as it relates to understanding the triggers of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia.  The Center architected the “Obecity, USA” awareness and advocacy campaign to help solve the obesity epidemic by 2040.  The Center conducts basic, clinical, and population research, and is affiliated with Louisiana State University.  The research enterprise at Pennington Biomedical includes over 480 employees within a network of 40 clinics and research laboratories, and 13 highly specialized core service facilities. Its scientists and physician/scientists are supported by research trainees, lab technicians, nurses, dietitians, and other support personnel.  Pennington Biomedical is located in state-of-the-art research facilities on a 222-acre campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  For more information, see

About Ochsner Health
Ochsner Health is a system that delivers health to the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and the Gulf South with a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate. Ochsner Health is a not-for-profit committed to giving back to the communities it serves through preventative screenings, health and wellness resources and partnerships with innovative organizations that share our vision. Ochsner Health healed more than 900,000 people from across the globe in 2020, providing the latest medical breakthroughs and therapies, including digital medicine for chronic conditions and telehealth specialty services. Ochsner Health is a national leader, named both the top hospital and the top children’s hospital in Louisiana by U.S. News & World Report. As Louisiana’s leading healthcare educator, Ochsner Health and its partners educate thousands  of healthcare professionals annually. Ochsner Health is innovating healthcare by investing in new technologies and research to make world-class care more accessible, affordable, convenient and effective. Ochsner's team of more than 32,000 employees and 4,500 providers are working to reinvent the future of health and wellness in the region. To learn more about Ochsner Health, please visit To transform your health, please visit