Healthy Weigh Study Results

What strategy works better for weight loss in obese employees? Financial incentives, environment change strategies, a combination of the two, or just on-your-own weight loss efforts? Drs. Karen Glanz and Kevin Volpp, along with the team at the UPenn PRC, found that participants in all three groups lost weight, and the financial incentives group lost slightly more weight, but none of the strategies netted significantly greater weight losses than the others. The findings are published in the September 7, 2021 edition of JAMA Network Open, volume 4, no.9.

The University of Pennsylvania Prevention Research Center (UPenn PRC) conducted a study to test strategies to achieve weight loss and maintenance of weight loss in adult employees with obesity. The Healthy Weigh Study, which started in 2015, was an innovative test of the relative effectiveness of environmental strategies and financial incentives, compared to “usual care,” on weight loss and maintenance. The study evaluated whether financial incentives and environmental strategies, separately and together, helped to achieve initial weight loss and maintenance of weight loss more than no special strategies in urban worksites in Philadelphia. This study aimed to manage obesity by improving nutrition and physical activity in order to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and other chronic health conditions.

Read the news brief by Penn Nursing here.
Read more about the environmental change strategies in our toolkit, Tips for Losing Weight and Keeping it Off.

Read the full paper in JAMA Network Open.


Glanz K, Shaw P, Kwong P, Choi J, Chung A, Zhu J, Huang Q, Hoffer K, Volpp K. Effect of Financial Incentives and Environmental Strategies on Weight Loss in The Healthy Weigh Study: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Network Open 2021;4(9): e2124132. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2021.24132


JAMA Healthy Weigh_visual


Testing General Versus Specific Behavioral Focus in Messaging for the Promotion of Sun Protection Behaviors

Skin cancer prevention practices aim to reduce exposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation that  causes skin cancer. There are several behaviors that can protect the skin from the harmful radiation – using sunscreen, wearing hats and shirts, and seeking shade.  Researchers at Penn conducted an experiment with white men and women between the ages of 18 – 49 years old, to see if specific health communication messages would change their intentions to protect themselves from the sun. Researchers asked participants to watch videos, and then to report whether they would be more or less likely to use the protection method featured. They also viewed messages that contained more than one protective behavior.

The results of the experiment showed that messages which emphasized only one sun protection behavior with general sun safety messaging were more promising than those that focused on multiple behaviors.   In some cases, men and women responded differently. More women in the study felt strongly that they would miss out on activities if they applied sunscreen, but they felt positive about protecting their head and face from the sun by covering up. On the other hand, men more often felt they would miss out on activities if they sought shade.

Investigators did not see specific messages rising to the top in this study, and suggest that focusing on a single sun protection behavior initially would be more effective.  This is seen as a first step, as longer communication campaigns may be needed to achieve lasting changes. One viewing of a message about protection is not enough to change a person’s behavior when it comes to sun protection methods.

Read the full paper here.

Bleakley A, Jordan A, Strasser A, Lazovich D, Glanz K. Testing General Versus Specific Behavioral Focus in Messaging for the Promotion of Sun Protection Behaviors, Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 2019 Oct 4

Taking more than one precaution to prevent skin cancer

In the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers evaluate the beliefs in sun protection behaviors versus the risk of skin cancer. It is known that practicing multiple behaviors against harmful UV rays, yet few adults report practicing more than one recommended behavior. This study examines the extent to which skin cancer prevention behaviors are combined and may follow a pattern of compensation in which an individual’s performance of one behavior (e.g., wearing sunscreen) precludes performing other protective behaviors (e.g., wearing a hat).

Read the paper here


Bleakley A, Lazovich D, Jordan AB, Glanz K. Compensation Behaviors and Skin Cancer Prevention, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Volume 55, Issue 6, December 2018, Pages 848-855

Advances in Alzheimer’s imaging are changing the experience of Alzheimer’s disease

Stites, S.D., Milne, R., Karlawish, J.
Alzheimer’s and Dementia: Diagnosis, Assessment and Disease Monitoring

Volume 10, 1 January 2018, Pages 285-300

  • PRC Investigator, Dr. Jason Karlawish joined S.D. Stites and R. Milne to study how a bio marker-based diagnosis can help a patient during each stage of Alzheimer’s Disease. The stigma or shame that can come with the disease can affect how a patient feels about themselves. Dr. Karlawish and his colleagues explored how changes in the way a patient is diagnosed can help address these stigmas.

A national survey of young women’s beliefs about quitting indoor tanning: implications for health communication messages

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]Indoor tanning is a risk factor for skin cancer, particularly among young, white women. Our researchers found that persuasive health messages that encourage young women to quit indoor tanning should focus on their beliefs that it helps their appearance and mood, rather than the health risks.

20% of our nation’s young, white women indoor tan, knowing the risk of skin cancer. In November and December of 2015, a national online  survey was conducted with 279 non-Hispanic white women, ages 18-25 in the United States, who indoor tan.

This survey investigated the young women’s beliefs and attitudes as well as social influences that kept them from quitting.

“Young women were most concerned about skin damage and that quitting tanning might affect their mood,” says Amy Bleakley PhD, MPH, lead author of the study. “It was interesting that quitting tanning to prevent skin cancer did not motivate their intention to quit. Health messages that foucs on appearance and mood instead of skin cancer may be more effective in encouraging young women to quit indoor tanning.”

Researchers suggest that health messages from doctors, parents and other loved ones aimed at discouraging indoor tanning should highlight the belief that quitting indoor tanning will reduce skin damage. In addition, messages should counter the belief that quitting will make them less happy. Finally, messages should highlight key people who would approve of them quitting indoor tanning.

Read the article here.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/3″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_single_image image=”2167″ img_size=”medium”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_column_text]Amy Bleakley, Amy Jordan, Morgan E Ellithorpe, DeAnn Lazovich, Sara Grossman, Karen Glanz

Translational Behavioral Medicine, ibx007,
Published: March 15, 2018


Wearable Devices as Facilitators, Not Drivers, of Health Behavior Change

Despite the latest trend in technology and weight loss, new research by PRC researchers reveals that wearable tracking devices are not extremely effective in changing users’ behaviors. Although these devices have potential, researchers say there are significant challenges.
Read the article here.


Patel M, Asch D, Volpp K. Wearable Devices as Facilitators, Not Drivers, of Health Behavior Change.  JAMA. 2015;313(5):459-460. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.14781.