URI President’s Health Promotion Partnership awarded $2.8 million grant to help elderly

exercise, eat better Largest grant in 3-year history of Health Promotion Partnership 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 Providence. The $2.8 million grant is the largest in the three-year history of the partnership. “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 Promotion Partnership. 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, Clark said. 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. -xxx- For Further Information: Dave Lavallee 401-874-2116