The Role Lifestyle Changes Play In Diabetes, Obesity Care


Oliver Wyman’s Sam Glick and Virta Health’s Kevin Kumler examine how lifestyle changes can improve metabolic health, as well as the seismic growth of GLP-1s.

Sam Glick and Kevin Kumler

3 min read

For Kevin Kumler, the battle against diabetes and obesity is personal. He watched his father struggle with both diseases for years before his death nearly four years ago.

“He got the usual care, which was being told that this is a chronic, progressive disease and maybe we can use medications to slow it down, and a little bit of lip service to lifestyle,” Kumler tells Oliver Wyman’s Sam Glick in this Oliver Wyman Health podcast.

Shortly after his father’s death, Kumler joined Virta Health as President of its US business. Virta Health is a telehealth company that works with employers and health plans to manage type 2 diabetes and obesity. But instead of relying on medication, Virta’s program is based on lifestyle changes, education, and coaching. Kumler had experience building out telehealth services having spent six years at Zocdoc and as President of Quartet Health, a digital behavioral health platform.

Kumler acknowledges that GLP-1s have proven successful in helping people lose weight but worries about rising costs associated with the drugs and the long-term effect on patients if lifestyle changes aren’t part of the equation. Virta recently published peer-reviewed data showing that focusing on lifestyle changes leads to sustained weight loss if patients discontinue using a GLP-1.

Show Highlights:

“Obesity and diabetes have gotten a lot of attention, largely due to our heavy disease prevalence in this country … we've become numb to the level of prevalence. Three-quarters of adults have type 2 diabetes, obesity, or are overweight at this point, closing in on 80%.”

“We saw over the last 60 years, insulin use skyrocketed. That actually hurt our obesity rates because it's very hard to lose weight while you're on insulin. And now we're seeing the same thing with these GLP-1s where people are looking for an easy button. And, honestly, I think the group that appreciates the easy button most is the medical community. You've got really overworked primary care physicians who are seeing more and more of their patients coming in with these diseases. They don't know how, with their very limited time to see that patient, they're going to impact their lifestyle, and so they're resorting to prescribing meds.”

“There was a report out that talked about the state of North Carolina. They're spending $100 million a year on weight loss drugs for their 25,000 employees. That's up from $34 million two years ago. So the expense and the growth rate, it's just unsustainable.”

“What the Virta team is trying to do is help people realize they can feel satisfied, they can eat foods they love, they can eat versions of the foods they've been eating their whole life, and they can feel a lot better. And that's the other thing that I think we've seen is people pretty quickly, if they have type 2 diabetes, they're coming down off their insulin, they're losing weight for the first time in years, they're getting more energy, they're sleeping better.”

“We absolutely need this kind of bipartisan, cross-departmental cooperation to attack this because it is the food environment that's killing us.”