UF COMJ researchers part of $2.1 million award to study weight loss interventions in primary care settings

Funds awarded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Researchers at the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville are part of a $2.1 million funding award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute to study weight loss interventions in primary care settings. These culturally sensitive interventions will target black female patients and will be guided by community health workers and trained physicians.

Carolyn Tucker, PhD, a professor of psychology and director of the UF Health Disparities Research and Intervention Program on the Gainesville campus, will serve as principal investigator of the recently approved project, which will be implemented at 20 UF Health primary care practices in the Jacksonville area. Nipa Shah, MD, a professor and chair of community health and family medicine at UF COMJ, is the co-principal investigator. 

Studies show that black women have the highest prevalence of obesity in the United States. More than half — 56.6 percent — of black women have obesity. This disease increases the likelihood of developing diabetes and other chronic diseases, and decreases quality of life and life expectancy.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends all adults who have obesity participate in an evidence-based, intensive, multicomponent behavioral treatment for this disease. Such treatments have been shown to produce clinically significant weight loss among patients. However, this weight loss is typically not sustained over time. A major research gap is the lack of evidence that the treatment for obesity recommended by the task force is effective within primary care settings and with black women patients in these settings.

Another gap is the absence of research to identify an effective way of integrating community health workers into primary care settings to assist physicians and other providers with health promotion and care such as obesity treatment. The study addresses these research gaps and patients’ views regarding their need for culturally sensitive obesity treatments that produce and sustain weight loss.

The proposed study will test the effectiveness of Health-Smart, a culturally sensitive, evidence-based, multi-component behavioral program for treating obesity. Implementation will last for six months. In addition to Tucker and Shah, lead researchers will include Stephen Anton, PhD; Lori Bilello, PhD, MBA, MHS; Shiva Gautam, PhD; and Anne Mathews, PhD, RDN.

“I am confident this project will be successful because it will be implemented using a partnership approach that involves community health workers, community stakeholders, patients, researchers, insurance companies and primary care providers working together,” Tucker said. “Furthermore, the lead researchers in this partnership, as well as others involved in implementing this project, are genuinely committed to empowering black women patients to take charge of their weight and health under whatever conditions that exist in their lives and to providing physicians with the tools to promote this patient empowerment.”

PCORI chose to fund this study following a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals. Applications were assessed for scientific merit, how well they will engage patients and other stakeholders, and their methodological rigor, among other criteria.

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options,” said Joe Selby, MD, MPH, executive director of PCORI. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with University of Florida to share the results.”

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with evidence-based information needed to make better-informed health care decisions. For more information, visit  

Featured Faculty

Lori A. Bilello, PhD, MBA, MHS

Lori A. Bilello, PhD, MBA, MHS

Research Associate Professor
Associate Director, Urban Health Alliance

Nipa R. Shah, MD

Nipa R. Shah, MD

Chair, Department of Community Health and Family Medicine