Funding will offer primary care-based weight loss program in minority populations

BATON ROUGE, LA - LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center has been awarded a 5-year, $10 million research grant from the Washington, DC-based Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the comparative effectiveness of obesity treatment options for underserved populations delivered in primary care settings.

The Louisiana Trial to Reduce Obesity in Primary Care project will be led by Dr. Peter Katzmarzyk, Pennington Biomedical's associate executive director for population and public health sciences. He will be joined on the project by scientists and clinicians from other LSU institutions including LSU Health Shreveport and LSU Health New Orleans. Additional collaborators from Tulane University, Ochsner Health System, and Xavier University of Louisiana will take part in this study - the largest obesity treatment intervention to be conducted entirely within the primary care setting.

The results of the study are anticipated to have a direct impact on improving healthcare delivery and outcomes.

"Pennington Biomedical puts science to work for a healthier Louisiana," said Katzmarzyk. "We are honored to be leading a project that will revolutionize the way we approach weight loss in many of our populations that have historically been underserved. Through this grant, we are translating clinical research developed at Pennington Biomedical for application in real-world medical settings."

The 24-month study will offer a scalable obesity treatment program delivered within the primary care setting in low-income and ethnic minority populations. Through partnerships with 18 primary care clinics whose patient base is predominantly African American, physicians and health coaches will assist in delivering education-based weight loss interventions focused on finding strategies that best address patients' needs.

Louisiana currently ranks sixth in the nation for the rate of obesity among our population - 33 percent of our citizens are considered obese. Nearly 42 percent of Louisianians who are obese are African American, and almost 33 percent are Latino. One in two children in Louisiana is overweight or obese. Obesity related medical costs in the state total approximately $1.4 billion annually.

"We know that obesity is considered a trigger for the development of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke - and it is associated with certain types of cancers," said Dr. William T. Cefalu, executive director at Pennington Biomedical. "We are addressing the issue head on and this grant offers us the opportunity to expand our work and collaborate with partners across the state and build upon the solid cooperative infrastructure already in place."

The Louisiana Trial for Obesity Reduction in Primary Care builds upon strong clinical research infrastructure in Louisiana, including the National Institutes of Health-funded Louisiana Clinical and Translational Science (LA CaTS) Center and the PCORI-funded LA Clinical Data Research Network. LSU Health Shreveport, LSU Health New Orleans, Tulane University, and Xavier University of Louisiana are partners in the LA CaTS Center collaborative, which is led by Pennington Biomedical.

This award will support 12 full-time biomedical research jobs across the state of Louisiana for a total of five years.

This grant is one of two obesity-focused studies awarded this week by PCORI to explore ways to reduce disparities in healthcare and outcomes for individuals who are disproportionately affected by obesity. In addition to Pennington Biomedical, the University of Kansas Center for Research received a grant to compare new treatment approaches for obesity in rural primary care settings in the Midwest.

These highly-competitive research grants are among 46 newly-approved proposals totaling $102 million announced by PCORI aimed at funding a wide range of patient-centered comparative clinical effectiveness research projects.

The award has been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract to Pennington Biomedical. PCORI is an independent, non-profit organization authorized by Congress in 2010 to fund comparative clinical effectiveness research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health and healthcare decisions. PCORI is committed to seeking input from a broad range of stakeholders to guide its work. The organization has approved $671 million to support 360 research studies and initiatives since it began funding research in 2012.