KINGSTON, R.I. -- Aug. 4, 1999--The University of Rhode Island President's
Health Promotion Partnership has been awarded a $2.8 million grant to research
new and more effective methods to improve the health of the elderly.
The Partnership was awarded the four-year grant from the National Institute
on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to use a model
developed at URI to foster healthier behaviors among the elderly of East
The $2.8 million grant is the largest in the three-year history of the
"This is an exciting opportunity for the elderly citizens of East
Providence to get involved in a program that should make a difference in
the health promotion efforts for all seniors," said Phillip G. Clark,
URI professor of gerontology and director of URI's Program in Gerontology,
who heads the partnership's gerontology team. "This grant clearly
means Rhode Island is a national model for improving the health of seniors."
"Partnering with the University of Rhode Island in this research
study is an honor," said Nancy S. Remington, East Providence community
development coordinator. "The city of East Providence has more than
12,000 elderly residents and we recognize that our community as a whole
will benefit from the knowledge advanced through the study."
Clark said the group chose East Providence because, it has the greatest
concentration of elderly residents in the state at 20 percent. In Rhode
Island, about 15 percent of the population is elderly, while the national
rate is 13 percent.
The program will be launched at the East Providence Senior Center. Clark,
who also heads the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center, said the team
will seek 1,300 study subjects 65 years and older.
"The broad, long-term objectives of this research project are to
develop new and more effective intervention methods to improve the health
and well-being of older adults," Clark said.
The co-principal investigator is James O. Prochaska, professor of psychology
and director of URI's Cancer Prevention Center and the President's Health
The partnership, which was spearheaded by Prochaska three years ago,
has brought together a wide range of scientists to develop health promotion
and disease prevention programs. In addition to Clark and Prochaska, the
17-member team includes URI professors of exercise science, food science
and nutrition, nursing, pharmacy, psychology, dental hygiene and a Brown
University professor. As part of the partnership strategy to engage students
in collaborative learning, about 12 students will join the project.
URI President Robert L. Carothers praised the program as a model of
the new partnership paradigm for learning at URI: "We believed that
the future of research and of learning itself depended upon putting together
interdisciplinary teams whose members challenged each other's methods of
inquiry. Professor Clark's work will advance that model even as it provides
support and assistance to the people of Rhode Island and America."
Clark will use as his research model the internationally known Transtheoretical
Model of Behavior Change, which was developed by Prochaska and his colleagues.
The model suggests that individuals trying to overcome problem behaviors
move through a series of stages: pre-contemplation, contemplation, preparation,
action and maintenance.
The goals of the project are to determine the effectiveness of the model
in improving physical activity and nutrition among an older population;
determine the effects on the physical ability and general health of the
study group; and study how older adults change their health behaviors.
Prochaska said research indicates that most health promotion programs
recruit only those persons who are ready to adopt the new behavior, usually
only about 20 percent of the general population. High levels of attrition
from programs and high relapse rates further erode the long-term effects
of any short-term programs, creating an impact rate between 1 and 5 percent.
This research holds the potential for developing much more effective
methods to promote the general health and well-being of older adults, Clark
said. The health-relatedness of this project is significant. The elderly
represent the fastest growing population group in the United States. Their
impact on the health care system and costs are enormous.
During the 12-month intervention stage, elderly test subjects will be
divided into the following categories: exercise program only, which will
be supplemented by personal feedback, newsletters, manuals and telephone
coaching; nutrition program only, which will include those same elements;
exercise and nutrition program, which will also include the four elements;
and the control group. The whole idea is to encourage continued participation,
In the first year, Clark's team will develop the intervention tools.
The second year calls for the intervention stage when test subjects will
be placed into one of the four groups. At the end of the intervention phase,
each subject will be assessed to determine the impact of the intervention
on their health. At the end of the third year, the subjects will be interviewed
again to determine long-term impacts. In the fourth year, the research
team will complete data analysis and publish its findings.