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Health-care innovators partner to launch online program aimed at combatting COVID-19 related illness

May 4, 2021 — 

The Wellness Institute, an internationally-recognized lifestyle medicine leader, announced today that it is has been awarded one of Research Manitoba’s COVID-19 Proof of Concept Grants to evaluate the outcomes of its digital lifestyle intervention program. The project focuses on those vulnerable to developing severe illnesses related to COVID-19 and other conditions and will be delivered in partnership with Seven Oaks Hospital Chronic Disease Innovation Centre and NexJ Health.

The Weight Loss for Health Online program aims to reduce the risk of developing health complications by creating sustainable lifestyle changes among people with metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and those at risk of developing severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection. While weight loss is a key focus of the program due to its role in reducing health risks, the lifestyle interventions also aim to treat metabolic syndrome, decrease the risk of heart disease, and foster wellness.

Using the NexJ Connected Wellness platform, the 16-week core program takes a personalized approach with behavioural health coaching on diet, exercise, and stress management. Once the core program is complete, participants enter a maintenance phase, giving them access to the tools they need to help sustain their new habits and healthier lifestyle for an additional eight months.

“We know that there has been collateral damage caused by this pandemic in that it has led to social isolation, less support and opportunity for physical activity, and certainly added stress and anxiety. We want to better understand that impact and evaluate how a virtual Wellness Institute program can reduce health risks through lifestyle medicine,” said principal investigator Dr. Claudio Rigatto, associate professor, internal medicine and community health sciences, Max Rady College of Medicine, and leader of the Research Manitoba COVID-19 Proof of Concept Grant, which will evaluate the program.

“This is a timely and critical project that can help improve outcomes related to COVID-19 and chronic diseases for years to come in Manitoba and beyond,” said Dr. Brian Postl, dean, Rady Faculty of Health Sciences. “Thank you to Research Manitoba, the Wellness Institute and all partners for supporting this valuable research into the impact of health and wellness lifestyle changes.”

The Wellness Institute is at the forefront of preventing and managing chronic disease, and its partners are committed to advancing research related to how lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of developing health complications from COVID-19 and chronic disease. One of the goals of the project is to utilize results of the Weight Loss for Health Online program to inform future investments in digital health technologies and the prevention and management of chronic diseases.

“Manitoba health professionals and scientists are part of a worldwide effort to fight COVID-19,” said Karen Dunlop, chief executive officer, Research Manitoba. “The Weight Loss for Health Online program will provide important information on how to manage COVID-19 related health impacts in Manitoba by using innovative technology and putting Manitobans at the cutting edge of therapies to reduce health risks.”

The Wellness Institute works collaboratively with the Seven Oaks Hospital Chronic Disease Innovation Centre to support research and innovation in lifestyle medicine.

To learn more about Weight Loss for Health Online, visit

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