The KU Diet Project: Weight Loss for People with Physical Disabilities


This research project implements a weight loss program for people with physical disabilities in Wichita. The project is based on a previous diet study (KU Diet Project) that focused on adults with developmental disabilities.

In addition to educating participants about weight loss and weight management, the project studies the cost and public policy implications of weight loss. Health care usage patterns and improvements in secondary health outcomes – such as diabetes and hypertension – are analyzed through Kansas Medicaid claims data.

Investigators are Muriel Saunders, PhD, Amanda Reichard, PhD, and Richard Saunders, PhD. Researchers at the KU Medical Center are also co-investigators on the project.

The Problem

People with physical disabilities have obesity rates that exceed those for the general population. They are more likely to have limited physical activity and to consume energy dense diets, which include foods that have a large number of calories in a small volume. But research on weight loss and management for people with physical disabilities has been limited.

Two Diets

The weight loss project is comparing the effectiveness of a specially designed “stoplight” diet to a “usual care” diet. Study participants follow one of the diets for weight loss and maintenance, and receive encouragement to participate in a physical activity program appropriate for their physical abilities. They also meet regularly with a dietician or certified health fitness specialist, who provide education and support.


Through our collaboration with the Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation (CPRF Homepage), the diet project is located at CPRF's campus in Wichita, Kansas.


This three-year weight loss project was funded in Sept. 2009. Read the news story at Oread Online.


This is a Field Initiated Project from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). 

Investigators are Muriel Saunders, Amanda Reichard and Richard Saunders.

The KU Diet Project for People with Physical Disabilities