VA adds new tools to national weight management initiative

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Disabled veterans, in particular, have myriad health concerns and issues that can impact the quality and duration of their lives. To improve the lives of veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs encourages them to MOVE!

Now in its second decade, the MOVE! Weight Management Program has helped 432,062 veterans with their health goals. Of those, 26 percent achieved 5 percent or greater weight loss, and almost all are maintaining the improvement two years after joining, according to the VA.

Joseph Nepi, a member of DAV Chapter 129 in Satellite Beach, Fla., added his success story to the MOVE! website.

“I felt I needed help in finding other ways to control my weight, since my medical conditions were preventing me from getting a lot of physical activity. So, I started the program [at] the Viera, Florida, VA outpatient clinic,” said Nepi, who is one of 178 veterans sharing their experiences online.

In addition to losing 50 pounds, Nepi, a diabetic, also stopped taking insulin and five additional medications. He recommends the program to other veterans, saying, “The MOVE! program provided great support for me and offered so many ways to help control my weight.”

“The primary goal of VA’s MOVE! Weight Management [Program for Veterans] is to assist veterans who are overweight or obese to achieve meaningful weight loss goals,” said Curt Cashour, VA press secretary. “Research has demonstrated that reducing weight by at least 5 percent can lead to improvements in health and reductions in risk for a wide range of diseases, from diabetes to hypertension to cancer. Regular physical activity lowers the risk of depression, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, stroke, colon cancer and breast cancer.”

The program was developed by the National Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention. Every VA medical center has a MOVE! coordinator or dedicated provider to help interested veterans get started in the program.

Before and after photos of Joseph Nepi, DAV Chapter 129 in Satellite Beach, Fla., show his weight-loss accomplishment through the MOVE! program. Since starting the program, Nepi has lost 50 pounds and was able to stop taking six medications. In his 2013 success story on the VA Move! website, he said that one of the biggest challenges was changing his pasta and bread intake; he now eats low-carb pasta and multi-grain bread and eats smaller portions. Nepi’s success story can be found at dav.la/7m. (Photos courtesy of Department of Veterans Affairs)

“In 2015, about three of every four veterans receiving VA health care were classified as either overweight or obese,” said DAV National Headquarters Executive Director Barry Jesinoski. “We know that statistic is exacerbated by illnesses and injuries suffered while in service. Knowing the sacrifices many of us have made, MOVE! makes fitness accessible to veterans of all abilities.”

And with a little initiative, veterans are seeing life-changing results.

Participating veterans begin the program with an 11-question survey regarding health background and fitness goals. The MOVE! coordinator can then provide various resources and counseling based on the results of the questionnaire. There are more than 125 resource sheets that can help veterans reach their health goals. The resources cover a wide variety of wellness topics, including smoking cessation, the benefits of strength training and eating well on a budget. There are also resources specifically for disabled veterans, such as instructions for installing a pedometer on a wheelchair and increasing physical activity for veterans with physical or medical limitations.

The patient-centered program is tailored to meet an individual veterans’ needs and includes regular follow-up and support systems. In-person group sessions, as well as video conferencing at participating community-based outpatient facilities, are available for veterans seeking a structured and clinician-led group format.

MOVE! also has its own phone app, MOVE! Coach, that participants can download for free in iTunes or Apple’s app store. A Move! Coach for Android devices is scheduled to launch sometime in 2018.

MOVE! Coach “walks you through a series of self-management guides, for a total of 19 weeks of care,” according to the MOVE! Coach website. Daily diaries, calculators, educational videos and personalized progress graphs are all tools the app offers veterans.

Veterans who wish to participate in MOVE! are eligible if they are receiving care from the VA, have a body mass index of 25 or greater, and are motivated to make lifestyle changes. There is no cost to veterans. Spouses interested in the program should contact their local VA medical center to learn how they can participate.