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University of Colorado Denver

University of Colorado Denver


Faculty Profile

Assistant Professor

Department of Medicine

University of Colorado Denver



1) NIH ARRA CNRU Tsai 2592262: A Randomized Trial Comparing a Commercial Program and Health Care-Based Intervention for Weight Loss

2) GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare: Obesity-Attributable Time Burden in Primary Care Practice


Description of Research

   I am studying the treatment of obesity in primary care settings, in particular how to create an evidence base for how we can move the efficacious treatments from studies like the Diabetes Prevention Program to settings of usual clinical care. I am particularly interested in how to target patients in such a way as to make treatment more broadly available where it is most needed (patients with diabetes, hypertension, and other weight-related diagnoses) but also to target treatment to the patients most prepared to receive it (i.e., those who are motivated or “activated” to lose weight).  I am conducting two pilot studies, one in which we provide different levels of reimbursement/in-kind subsidy for the treatment program, and another in which we will randomly assign patients to attend treatment at Weight Watchers or in a primary care-based intervention.  These studies should begin to create an evidence base for how we can implement obesity treatment in real world clinical settings.  I am also conducting a database study to evaluate how much time primary care physicians spend treating obesity and its complications. 


1-2 Most Significant Publications (recent)


Tsai AG, Wadden TA. Treatment of obesity in primary care practice in the United States: a systematic review. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2009; 24:1073-1079.

Tsai AG, Wadden TA, Pillitteri JL, Sembower MA, Gerlach KK, Kyle TK, Burroughs VJ. Disparities by ethnicity and socioeconomic status in use of weight loss treatments. Journal of the National Medical Association. 2009;101:62-70. 


Primary Focus Area (if part of the obesity initiative)

·         Weight Management in Primary Care


Secondary Focus Areas (if part of the obesity initiative)

·         Socioeconomic and ethnic disparities in obesity

·         Economic issues related to obesity (costs, cost-effectiveness of treatment, reimbursement)


Access to Specialized Populations

·         Denver Health Medical Center – medically underserved, high percentage Latino, high rate of obesity

·         Look AHEAD – multicenter clinical trial of intentional weight loss in type 2 diabetes


Benefit of CNRU

The major benefit of the CNRU for me has been the enhanced interaction and collaboration with other CNRU investigators as a junior faculty member.  My two primary research mentors are CNRU investigators.  Also, the CNRU allows me to interact with other junior investigators through regular meetings and research presentations.


CNRU Cores Used



CNRU Collaborations

Hill, Bessesen, Wyatt, Ogden, Catenacci, Austin, Schoen, Melanson, Eckel, Estacio
University of Colorado Denver

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