2023 Chronic Disease Nutrition Physical Activity

PRC Faculty, Peg Allen and Maura Kepper receive new grants

Peg Allen recently received a new grant funded through the Public Health Accreditation Board, titled “Small Health Department Accreditation Success Stories.” The purpose of this short-term project (October 2023 through May 2024) is to develop public health department success stories for the Public Health Accreditation Board that describe facilitators of successful preparations for national accreditation among small health departments. Small public health departments are those with fewer than 50,000 people in the geographic area they serve. Preparations for national accreditation through the Public Health Accreditation Board involve extensive staff time and expertise to conduct community health assessments, community health improvement planning, strategic planning within the health department, use of a performance management system to ensure continuous quality improvement, documentation of use of evidence-based approaches, and more. While most state and large city health departments are nationally accredited, few small health departments are. To develop the success stories, the project team will remotely conduct 15-30 individual interviews with employees of several small health departments. The purposes of the interviews are to learn what facilitated successful preparations for initial national accreditation or reaccreditation, how the small health departments overcame any barriers, and what advice they have for other small health departments in applying for national accreditation.

Maura Kepper received a grant from the American Heart Association titled “Evaluation of a novel technology to support tailored health behavior counseling in rural primary care clinics.” This project is funded from August 2023 to July 2025 and will use digital health to improve health behavior counseling for overweight and obese patients in rural Southeast Missouri. Cardiovascular disease (CVD) prevalence is 40% higher among rural than urban residents and CVD mortality is increasing disproportionately in rural United States (US) counties. As recognized by the American Heart Association’s (AHA’s) Life’s Essential 8, maintaining healthy weight, physical activity, and healthy food intake promotes cardiovascular health (CVH) and prevents CVD. Evidence-based health behavior counseling is recommended as a first-line approach for promoting healthy behaviors and is required by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for adult patients with elevated body mass index (BMI). Counseling is most effective and equitable when developed with, and tailored to, the patient and offered with resources that support healthy behaviors. Resource referral and follow-up support is particularly important with low-income rural residents who often have more severe social needs. The Chronic Care Model (CCM) proposes the inclusion of decision support tools and additional healthcare team members (e.g., community health workers [CHWs]) to engage patients and integrate community resources.7, 8 Digital health tools that align with the CCM are not readily available for primary care teams, particularly in low-resourced rural settings.

The aims of this study are to conduct a clinic-randomized trial to:

  • Evaluate the implementation of PREVENT, a digital health tool, and its impact on clinic workflows and care delivery. 
  • Describe how PREVENT influences health behavior counseling and the patient experience.
  • Evaluate preliminary indications of PREVENT’s impact on patients’ motivation to change, and CVH behaviors and outcomes.