OHSU $1.1 Million Grant Will Help Region's Employees Be Healthier

11/19/04    Portland, Ore.

Two years ago, a 40-something administrative coordinator in the Oregon Health & Science University School of Dentistry found herself in a stressful job. She was overweight, suffered chronic migraines, hypertension and acid reflux. Elizabeth Archers was very worried about her health so she contacted the OHSU Employee Wellness Program, managed by OHSU Health Management Services.

Archers worked with a personal nurse-coach who used health coaching techniques to help her lose weight, and improve her fitness and overall health. As a result, she has lost 85 pounds and has been off blood pressure, migraine and heartburn medication for a year. Health Management Systems health coaching techniques are based on the Motivational Interviewing approach and include eliciting from patients their own reasons and arguments for change. Emphasis is placed on three assumptions: a collaborative approach between coach and client; drawing out solutions from the client; and the recognition and acknowledgment of the clients self-determination in making lifestyle choices.

Many workplaces now offer employee health promotion programs. But there has been a lack of formalized knowledge about how to recruit employees who are in high-risk health groups into these programs, and how to ensure that the resources used are appropriate and effective. This is about to change.

OHSU Health Management Services, in a joint relationship with the University of Rhode Island Cancer Prevention Research Center has received a $1.1 million, three-year grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study the impact of different recruitment methods and interventions to improve the health of employees in the workplace. This is one of the top grants awarded by the CDC.

"Being recognized by this national grant raises awareness that the OHSU School of Nursing is one of the major institutions conducting research and providing services that effectively manage the most costly health risks for employees and their employers," said Susan Butterworth, M.S., Ph.D., principal investigator on the study, director of OHSU Health Management Services and associate professor in the OHSU School of Nursing.

The relationship with the Cancer Prevention Research Center brings one of the world's foremost experts on behavior modification, James O. Prochaska, Ph.D., as a co-investigator. Prochaska is one of the originators of the Transtheoretical Model of Change, director of the Cancer Prevention Research Center and professor of psychology at the University of Rhode Island. He was named one of the five most influential authors in psychology by the Institute for Scientific Information and the American Psychological Society. He has served as the principal investigator on more than $70 million in research grants on the prevention of cancer and other chronic diseases.

Other co-investigators on the study include Marna Flaherty-Robb, M.S.N., assistant professor, associate dean for practice development and integration, and co-director for best practices initiative; and Nancy Perrin, Ph.D., professor; both in the OHSU School of Nursing.

The objective of the study is to compare and evaluate evidence-based health promotion and disease management strategies, tools and recruitment models to improve the health of employees. Quality Health Solutions Inc. of Lake Oswego, Ore., will provide the online health risk assessments and multiple behavior interventions in conjunction with OHSU Health Management Services motivational, interview-based health coaching.

"The results will be most exciting to employers who are interested in health promotion and disease management services to improve health, reduce absenteeism and increase productivity of their employees. The results will help us discover the most cost-effective ways to recruit employees into health promotion programs and determine the appropriate intensity of interventions needed for individuals at different risk levels and stages of readiness to change," Butterworth said.

OHSU Health Management Services' client list includes WebMD, Oregon Department of Transportation, Clackamas County Fire District, Regence BlueCross BlueShield, The ODS Companies, and others. In addition to offering evidence-based interventions and services to local and national organizations, Health Management Services builds an evaluation component into all of their programs. They have demonstrated outcome data that includes high employee utilization and satisfaction, risk reduction and cost savings.

Founded in 1997, OHSU Health Management Services is under the auspices of the OHSU School of Nursing Office of Practice Development. The OHSU School of Nursing has a longstanding reputation for excellence and is consistently ranked among the top nursing schools in the nation.