Open Access Research article

Who participates in internet-based worksite weight loss programs?

Wen You1*, Fabio A Almeida2, Jamie M Zoellner2, Jennie L Hill2, Courtney A Pinard3, Kacie C Allen2, Russell E Glasgow4, Laura A Linnan5 and Paul A Estabrooks2

Author Affiliations

1 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Dept of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

2 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Dept of Human Nutrition Foods, & Exercise, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA

3 Gretchen Swanson Center for Human Nutrition, Omaha Nebraska, USA

4 Dissemination and Implementation Science Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, NCI, Rockville, Maryland, USA

5 University of North Carolina, Dept of Health Behavior and Health Education, Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA

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BMC Public Health 2011, 11:709  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-709

Published: 20 September 2011



The reach and representativeness are seldom examined in worksite weight loss studies. This paper describes and illustrates a method for directly assessing the reach and representativeness of a internet-based worksite weight loss program.


A brief health survey (BHS) was administered, between January 2008 and November 2009, to employees at 19 worksites in Southwest Virginia. The BHS included demographic, behavioral, and health questions. All employees were blinded to the existence of a future weight loss program until the completion of the BHS.


The BHS has a participation rate of 66 percent and the subsequent weight loss program has a participation rate of 30 percent. Employees from higher income households, with higher education levels and health literacy proficiency were significantly more likely to participate in the program (p's < .01).


Worksite weight loss programs should include targeted marketing strategies to engage employees with lower income, education, and health literacy.