A couple days ago, Childhood Obesity News traced the early-development stages of Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go smartphone application, the long-term tool based on the substance-dependence treatment model. Now, an exciting milestone has been reached — the completion of the second of two consecutive five-month studies, involving 87 obese young people, many of them severely obese. This one began June 8, and soon afterward Dr. Pretlow spoke at the European Congress on Obesity.
In August, the Australian magazine Southern Health News featured W8Loss2Go in a cover story. In the photo, a smartphone held by a student named Ellen Burne showed one screen of the application’s main page. Childhood Obesity News said at the time:
The W8Loss2Go study has been formally announced and launched, and takes place under the auspices of several institutions in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia…. The trial is a partnership between Dr. Pretlow and researchers from Flinders Medical Centre’s Department of Paediatrics, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), and Flinders University.
The reason why Ms. Burne was chosen as a model is interesting. She is not a W8Loss2Go graduate, but a midwifery student who underwent lap band surgery in 2011. She qualifies as a success story, having reached and maintained a healthy weight after the surgery. But she expressed the thought that if W8Loss2Go had been available to her, it would have made her weight loss journey easier. This endorsement opens up the possibility that the application could benefit post-surgical young people and adults, because even after resorting to the extreme solution of surgery, these patients do not always find it easy to invent a new lifestyle that will keep the weight off.
A subsequent Childhood Obesity News post introduced other team members, and another one gave more details of the protocol, such as the pairing of each participant with a weight-loss buddy in the United States. One thing therapists have learned from traditional 12-step programs is the importance of mutual aid and fellowship among the people who work on sustainable lifestyle change. Dr. Pretlow said:
Very early in the history of the site it was observed that the kids, on their own, sought weight loss buddies on the bulletin boards. They highly value the support of a web buddy in their struggle to lose weight, as they may not receive support from their family or friends. They email each other or chat live in the chatrooms or interact via ‘instant messaging,’ which is a one-on-one private chat.
For anybody who uses the W8Loss2Go application, whether child or adult, Australian or American, the first 10 weeks are taken up with identifying the problem foods that they just don’t seem to be able to stay away from. The application provides a number of techniques and motivational tools to develop coping skills, and the problem foods are eliminated one by one. For the tools they learn to use and the skills they acquire, the portability of the app, housed in a smartphone, is key. Dr. Pretlow notes:
Participants were able to take the app wherever they went, thus it was available ‘in the moment’ for impending binges or overwhelming cravings. As today’s youth typically are seen using cell phones, participants were not self-conscious about using the app.
In the Australian study, participants had the opportunity to chat online with pediatric nurse Kerri Sutton, who said, “This research will help us learn more about how we can harness the power of mobile health technologies to engage with young people and keep them motivated towards addressing their very serious health problems.”
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Image by Southern Health News and W8 Loss 2 Go