Which weight loss program to follow in 2012

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Recognizing prevention is less expensive than treatment, Medicare officials announced in November that the program will now pay for screenings and preventive services to help reduce obesity in the American population. The move by one of the federal government’s largest entitlement agencies is driven by the hope that it will save money over the long term by tackling a major national health issue before it becomes a crisis. It is expected that many private medical insurance companies will join Medicare in offering the benefit.

Since the Fall announcement, weight-loss organizations have been refocusing their advertising and outreach realizing that many people who heretofore could not afford to receive long-term medical consultations regarding their weight can do so now. The question for the consumer, particularly those not accustomed to the demands of weight loss programs, is which one to follow?

New Weight Loss Strategies

Hoping to grab the attention of that consumer as well as their business, traditional weight loss companies such as Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, and Nutrisystem are preparing major ad campaigns for 2012. They are being joined by Long Island-based Center for Medical Weight Loss planning its own campaign beginning in February. According to the Medical Weight Loss founder, Dr. Michael Kaplan, the center differs from other providers in that its program is administered by physicians.

“We are very excited that Medicare has recognized the role weight plays in one’s overall health – enough so that they are willing to provide obesity counseling insurance coverage for people seeing a primary care physician with specialized training in obesity if they have a body mass index of 30 or above,” said Dr. Kaplan. “I have long advocated that obesity should be considered a health issue, that weight loss should be overseen by a medical professional specially trained in managing this complex condition, and that medical insurance should cover the cost of that care.”

Weight Watchers International would beg to differ with Dr. Kaplan. They’re launching one of the most aggressive ad campaigns in their history proclaiming the 2012 as “The Year to Believe.” Accompanying the campaign are celebrities Jennifer Hudson, an Academy Award and Grammy Award winning performer, and National Basketball Association Hall of Famer Charles Barkley. They will act as high-profile motivators for everyone taking part in Weight Watchers’ well-known weight management program.

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“By declaring 2012 ‘The Year to Believe’ we’re sounding a rallying cry to help people across the country turn their dreams into reality,” said Cheryl Callan, chief marketing officer for Weight Watchers. “We are going to surround people with inspirational messages beginning this holiday season and continuing throughout the coming year. At a time when many of us aren’t feeling particularly optimistic, we want to express our passionate belief in people and the power in all of us to change for the better. We see it happen every day.”

Not to be outdone, Jenny Craig, now downsized to just ‘Jenny’ is featuring Singer Mariah Carey as its new brand ambassador. Carey appeared at a November news conference for the company and had this to say:

“As an artist, I use my voice to entertain. But, today I want to use my voice to draw attention to a serious matter. Two-thirds of the country is placing themselves at risk for heart disease and diabetes. Largely, that is due to unhealthy eating patterns and lack of physical activity. I obtained a greater understanding of this when I was pregnant with my twins and dealing with my own health issues. That’s why I feel so strongly about working with Jenny and the American Heart Association to help Americans get serious about their health as it pertains to these issues which are so important."

Unlike the celebrity-heavy efforts by Weight Watchers and Jenny, the Center for Medical Weight Loss has hired the Levinson Tractenberg Group to manage its advertising in the new year. And in response to Jenny and Weight Watchers, Joel Levinson, a partner in the group, said, “That’s a me-too weight loss product approach and that’s a killer for me.” The center’s campaign, Levinson stresses, addresses the unique selling point of the program being administered by physicians, he said.

Regardless of one’s approach, weight loss and management will be front and center in 2012. First Lady Michelle Obama has made the subject the center piece of her tenure in the White House and local government agencies are beginning to prosecute parents who allow their children to reach obese stages while still in their youth. As controversial as government intervention into such private affairs may be, it’s a sign of the times.

“Obesity is a challenge faced by Americans of all ages, and prevention is crucial for the management and elimination of obesity in our country,” said Donald Berwick, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Image source of Walking for Weight Loss: Flickr, Some Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

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