Organisations spend twice as much on health-care costs for individuals with obesity vs. on those with a healthy weight—and 42% of U.S. adults are living with obesity. There is tremendous excitement about new weight-loss medications, but navigating this complex new world isn’t easy for individuals or organisations hoping to keep their employees healthy. In response, Wondr Health has introduced Wondr Advanced, a comprehensive weight-loss program that empowers organizations to overcome the cost and complexity of obesity management, with a particular focus on managing weight-loss medications. Wondr Advanced follows FDA guidelines by first assessing and triaging patients to determine if they qualify for weight-loss medications. Participants then begin the Wondr Health behavioral change program prior to treatment and have the flexibility to engage with it at any point along their weight-loss journey.

Scott Paddock is Chief Executive Officer at Wondr Health, which has more than 15 years of behavior change experience and partnership with health plans and employers. We had a chance to ask him a bit more about Wondr Advanced recently:

Who is Wondr Advanced designed for and how does it work?

Wondr Advanced is a comprehensive solution to address the obesity epidemic and drive down health-care costs. It’s designed for the carrier, it’s designed for the employer, and most importantly, it’s designed for the employee who needs help. The way it works is pretty straightforward: We provide folks with a personalized plan that consists of the best behavioural health program, the best clinical support, and the best prescribers available to meet their specific needs.

Can you give us a rundown of the pros and cons of the new weight-loss medications? i.e., Who are they great for and who should stay away from them?

If you’re not a person who is living with obesity and just want to lose a few pounds, this is not the program for you. We’re defining obesity in accordance with FDA guidelines as individuals who have a BMI of 30 or greater. There are two really important things to keep in mind about any approach to obesity: First, in most cases there are ways to dramatically cut costs, and second, it’s very important to personally tailor your approach.

Only about 40% of the individuals we expect to be signing up for Wondr Advanced should be on GLP-1 medication like Ozempic, which is the extremely expensive weight-loss medication option getting all the media attention. There are dozens of highly effective generic drugs and combination medications that help people dramatically change their lives and physical condition for one-tenth or even one-twentieth of the price.

It’s also absolutely critical for prescribers to tailor medications alongside a customized behavioural health and support program that considers medical history, age, physical condition, sleep and exercise routines, stress levels, eating habits, and more.

How is Wondr Advanced different than other weight-loss medication solutions?

Turning the tide against obesity is our unwavering focus at Wondr. Our world-class, comprehensive weight-loss program helps more people live a vibrant life by reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Unlike direct-to-consumer options, Wondr has more than 15 years of experience working directly with employers and health plans to deliver powerful weight-loss solutions. We know what it takes to get the bottom-line results our clients need.

Wondr Advanced improves employee health and reduces employer costs with the best-practice combination of sustainable behaviour change and tailored weight-loss medications. We power personalized treatment paths to sustainable weight loss by delivering:

  • World-class behaviour change program
  • 1:1 treatment from board-certified obesity experts
  • Tailored medication management, including blended use of weight-loss medication and other medication (e.g., Metformin to address insulin resistance) as clinically indicated
  • Seamless care coordination among PCP and specialists
  • Customized content, prompts, and reminders
  • Community support, and messaging
  • Tools to support readiness for weight-loss medication
  • Ongoing tracking and monitoring

What are the important components of a successful weight-loss medication benefits strategy?

The key word for Wondr Health is support. You have to start with a custom-tailored approach to both a prescription medication and developing new life habits around sleep, eating, exercise, and thought. But support means we prepare you and help you every step of the way, including through the thoughts and incidents that may have nothing do with the physiology of weight loss but instead with navigating through new life experiences.

For instance, many people have false expectations. They think: “If I lose 100 pounds, I’ll get a promotion at work and my sister will like me better!” But those things don’t necessarily follow. Another pitfall we help navigate is saboteurs. If you’ve been spending three hours a day with family and friends sitting on the couch eating chips, for instance, and you stop doing that regularly, you’re going to run into resentment and friendship traps that make it hard to keep with your new program.

Can you tell us how Wondr Advanced is personalized to the individual? What kind of data does Wondr Health collect to create a personalized experience and what type of reporting do you provide?

We gather all kinds of data about participants’ eating habits and their daily lives and work. More than 1 million people have been through the Wondr Health program, and we keep gathering and updating data through regular surveys.

To start with we’ll identify: “Are you a social eater? An emotional eater? An unconscious eater?” and begin to tailor the program with that. Then: “How physical is your daily work?” One of our big clients is a major airline and there’s a huge difference between a guy moving baggage all day and a data processing clerk. We have a video library with literally thousands of videos so we can tailor a solution to every sort of life issue imaginable, from alcohol consumption and menopause stress to social anxiety or disturbed sleep patterns. Every week throughout the program we check in with a one-minute quiz asking folks about their protein intake, how hungry they were when they ate, the timing of their eating, whether they chewed slowly, avoided sugar, tracked their weight, kept themselves hydrated, ate their favourite food first, and so on.

In addition, we provide ongoing tracking and monitoring—from behaviour change engagement to clinical adherence to employee satisfaction—to optimize outcomes and controls costs. We also provide quarterly reporting that demonstrates the impact of Wondr Advanced.

How does Wondr Health envision the future of the weight-loss landscape? Are there any long-term goals or milestones the company aims to achieve?

We are just at the very beginning of a weight-loss revolution. The future is going to be all about adaptability: There will be more powerful medications available, more personalized options for more people, and wider and deeper sets of behavioural health and support.

Right now, we’re barely at the beginning of getting the first 1-2% of qualified people with obesity engaged, but we will eventually move towards 40-50% of all qualified people using these sorts of solutions. What’s tremendously exciting are the new medications in the pipeline. I can think of about six offhand, but dozens more are coming, and they’ll be both medications that target specific issues—liver fat, for instance, vs. global body fat—or combination medications that address multiple issues all at once. Today you might be on the verge of diabetes and taking a blood pressure medication, a statin for your cholesterol, and Metformin for your blood sugar, but tomorrow you’ll be able to take a single medication that will do all of that. Better still, it will be tailored uniquely to your age, medical history, and lifestyle.

How does Wondr Health differentiate itself from its competitors in the employer market, and what are some of the key factors that have contributed to Wondr Health’s success thus far?

Wondr Health is vastly different from everyone else because of our deep roots in the employer space. Our parent company was a benefit broker; that made us focus from the beginning on how to make everything we did easier for employer customers. All our competitors tend to be consumer weight-loss programs that are retrofitted to the employer space, and most of them have failed at providing an effective and viable employer option. We’ve been very intentional about our digital approach to e-learning from the days when there was barely enough internet bandwidth to do it. That’s made us deeply data focused and attuned to optics for the employer, who will always know what’s going on in their population.

One of my favourite statistics about Wondr Health is this: One-third of our book of business, our program participants, have an education that ended in high school. They all say: “I never would have had access to this if it wasn’t for my employer!” The schoolteacher in Mississippi or the truck driver in Wisconsin, they have other things they need to spend their money on. This really gets at the social determinants of health, and they’ll all tell you: “I could not have afforded this without my employer’s help.” I’m particularly proud of that.

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