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 http://www.bcbswny.com .
SOURCE BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York