Taking a whole-person approach to obesity support

Anti-obesity medication paired with healthy lifestyle skill building could be the answer to sustainable weight loss.

In 2018, 30.7% of adults in the United States were considered overweight, 42.7% had obesity, and 9.2% had severe obesity1. Obesity is linked to several life-threatening medical conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even some types of cancer. From a healthcare perspective, obese adults paid $1,861 more on average in medical costs compared to adults at a healthy weight2.

These statistics point to a nationwide obesity crisis. According to Silver Fern Healthcare, the issue has stemmed from inadequate healthcare approaches to obesity, as well as a “flawed national dietary prescription for obesity,” referring to calorie counting, a focus on low-fat eating and smaller servings, combined with exercise and better willpower and accountability3. The pervasive presence of ultra-processed foods in today’s restaurants and grocery stores have only exacerbated the issue.

Many have tried traditional weight loss methods with little, or short-lived, success, but recent pharmaceutical advancements have presented us with a new plan of action — anti-obesity medications (AOMs). According to Silver Fern, AOMs could play a crucial role in response to the national obesity crisis4.

Clinical studies of AOMs on the market today have resulted in between 18% and 22% weight loss on average4. These medications act on gut hormones to make patients feel fuller faster and reduce hunger, among other things. However, AOMs target biological symptoms of obesity and do not address the root causes. When a patient stops taking an AOM, the hormonal and metabolic benefits cease to exist, and — without ancillary support — any weight lost is likely to return.

AOMs aren’t a silver-bullet solution, as there are several individual factors that lead to and enable obesity. A whole-person approach to obesity care should consider more than just medical and dietary interventions; it must also consider overarching cultural influences, lifestyle choices, health inequities, mental health, and personal pressures stemming from a person’s work, social and family life3.

According to Silver Fern, these behavioral and psychosocial factors are the driving force behind 60% of obesity intervention outcomes, which should put them at, or at least near, the top of the list for tackling sustainable weight loss. While AOMs may be an excellent tool for kick-starting weight loss, they are most effective in the long term when paired with a whole-person approach, which could include programs like health coaching and healthy lifestyle skill building.

Employees who are taking AOMs and have access to comprehensive obesity support programs with personalized wellness strategies are likely to see the best — and most lasting — results. While AOMs may be a promising new tool in obesity treatment, they aren’t cheap. According to Silver Fern, first-to-market Wegovy costs as much as $17,976 per year, and emerging competitors are expected to price their solutions similarly4. For employers, covering the cost of AOMs necessitates preemptive action with benefits partners to ensure sufficient program options are available. Helping employees find a path to sustainable weight loss and better wellbeing is good business. Learn how WellSpark helps employers improve the health of their workforce through employee support — individual, group and text — focused on removing barriers that prevent lasting change.


[1] National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “Overweight & Obesity Statistics.” National Institutes of Health. Accessed Sept. 30, 2023, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/overweight-obesity.

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Adult Obesity Facts.” Accessed Sept. 30, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html.

[3] Silver Fern Healthcare, LLC. “Traditional US Obesity Programs Have Failed Us — But New Science Provides Hope and a Path Forward.” Accessed Sept. 30, 2323, from https://blog.silverfernhealthcare.com/traditional-us-obesity-programs-have-failed-us-but-new-science-provides-hope-and-a-path-forward/

[4] Silver Fern Healthcare, LLC. “Want to Ensure Your AOM Spend is Worth the Investment? Create an Effective and Affordable Obesity Program.” Accessed Sept. 30, 2023, from https://blog.silverfernhealthcare.com/want-to-ensure-your-aom-spend-is-worth-the-investment-create-an-effective-and-affordable-obesity-program/.