BlueCross BlueShield Funds $5 Million / 5-Year University at Buffalo Research and Treatment Program for the Severely Obese

Mar 07, 2006, 00:00 ET from BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York

    BUFFALO, N.Y., March 7 /PRNewswire/ -- BlueCross BlueShield of Western New
 York and the University at Buffalo's (UB) School of Public Health and Health
 Professions today announced a five-year research and treatment program for the
 severely obese that will study the effects of weight-loss alternatives to
 gastric bypass surgery.  The $5 million program is a landmark effort to stem
 the public health obesity crisis.  According to the Centers for Disease
 Control, the annual cost of obesity in the United States is $117 billion,
 including healthcare expenses and lost productivity.  An estimated $4.5
 billion was spent on gastric bypass surgery in 2005, a 1,000 percent increase
 over 1995.
     The program, involving 280 BlueCross BlueShield members, will be the first
 of its kind to use and assess proven scientific methods for treating the
 severely obese (approximately 100 pounds or more over ideal weight).
 Participants will be monitored in one of four different programs, each using
 various combinations of behavior modification and lifestyle changes, meal
 replacement, counseling, and medication.  The outcomes and costs of medical
 care of the groups will be compared to each other and with a population of
 patients who have undergone bariatric gastric-bypass surgery.
     "The U.S. Surgeon General calls obesity 'the terror within' and has issued
 a call to action," stated Alphonso O'Neil-White, President & CEO of BlueCross
 BlueShield of Western New York.  "BlueCross BlueShield's investment with the
 University at Buffalo will generate scientific evidence to develop a gold
 standard, best practices to treat the severely obese.  This research
 initiative is necessary and is urgent, because the costs to our society and
 our economy are far too great," he added.
     "Promoting health and wellness, and developing pioneering new methods of
 preventing and treating serious diseases such as extreme obesity, are the
 essential strategies by which we are working to serve the health-care needs of
 our larger communities," said UB's President John B. Simpson, Ph.D.
     According to Michael F. Noe, M.D., UB clinical professor of social and
 preventive medicine and principal investigator on the study, many participants
 meet the criteria for bariatric surgery yet, for various reasons, it is not a
 viable option for them.
     "It's essential that alternative, nonsurgical approaches to help people
 who are severely overweight be evaluated," said Noe, "and we need to determine
 if these new approaches are safe, doable and cost-effective. We think this
 study will provide some definitive answers."
     For additional information on the treatment and research program, view .

SOURCE BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York