Wellness Program Benefits Mentally Ill Who Have Obesity
The life expectancy of people with serious mental illness is 25 to 30 years less than that of the general population. The main cause of this early death is heart disease associated with factors that can be changed, such as obesity and tobacco use. People with serious mental illness experience rates of obesity nearly double those in the general population, as well as higher rates of severe obesity at or above the Body Mass Index of 40.
A series of studies by Dartmouth College Prevention Research Center (PRC) shows that a program called InSHAPE is helping people with serious mental illness and severe obesity to lose weight and to be more physically fit. The wellness program was developed by Ken Jue, former chief executive officer for Monadnock Family, a community mental health center in rural New Hampshire. He noticed the patients were dying in middle age because of heart disease. “The idea for the InSHAPE program came to me when I was sitting in a funeral service and it dawned on me that it was my fifth or sixth funeral in a very short period of time,” says Jue.
InSHAPE was tested in trials in rural New Hampshire and urban Boston. This study spanning 3 trials and 7 years looked at fitness among participants with serious mental illness and obesity. About half of the participants showed reduced risk for heart disease with pounds lost or improved scores on a 6- minute walk test. The participants included those with serious mental illness ranging from schizophrenia, to major depression, and bipolar diagnoses.
Dartmouth scientists are leading a study of InSHAPE in 48 mental health organizations nationwide to determine how such programs can be implemented in mental health organizations.