Aim: To describe the characteristics of participants who enrolled in a commercial web-based weight loss program (SP Health Weight Loss Platform), and assess the reach of the program. Methods: Participants were enrolled from 15 August 2007 to 31 May 2008. An enrolment survey captured self-reported data or demographic, anthropometric and eating and exercise behaviours. The target population was defined as any Australian aged 18–75 years, with a body mass index of ≥22, who was using a commercial program to lose or maintain weight and had access to the Internet. The proportion of the target population reached and representativeness were determined from available population data. Results: The 11 341 participants were predominantly obese middle-aged women, of higher socioeconomic status, from major cities within Australia. Men (n = 1531) had a significantly higher mean body mass index, poorer eating and activity habits, and different reasons for eating and attempting weight loss than women (P < 0.05). Obese participants had a significantly higher mean age and were more likely to be from low socioeconomic and rural areas (P < 0.05). Approximately 1.6% of the potential target group enrolled in the program (2.0% women and 0.6% men). The highest participation rate was among obese 25- to 35-year-olds. This was true overall (7.7% total), as well as for both sexes (9.0% women and 4.6% men). Conclusion: The present study demonstrates that web-based weight loss programs have the ability to reach a large number of individuals at risk of weight-related morbidity, including ‘hard-to-reach’ groups such as men and younger clients.
Nutrition & Dietetics Vol. 67, Issue 4, p. 267-274