UGA, Texas A&M study looks at ways to manage chronic disease in the workplace

A sizable fraction of the more than 150 million adults in the American workforce have at least one chronic health condition—such as arthritis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes or depression. For these workers and their employers, managing these sorts of conditions are crucial for employee health and well-being and for workforce productivity. Initiatives aimed at improving disease self-management among working-age adults have been successful at improving health and productivity and reducing health care costs, but there has been comparatively little research focusing on the best ways to implement self-management programs in the workplace.

To fill this need, Dr. Matthew Lee Smith at the Texas A&M School of Public Health, and co-principal investigator Dr. Mark Wilson, director of the College of Public Health’s Workplace Health Group, studied a commonly used self-management education program and a variation of that program to learn more about its effectiveness in workplace settings. Their study, published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, consisted of a six-month randomized controlled trial as part of an overall effort through a five-year grant from the National Heart, Lung, And Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health.

The research team worked with the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP), a widely used evidence-based program that uses small-group workshops to help participants develop the ability to manage their diseases themselves. CDSMP is typically offered through health care organizations, senior centers and other groups, with only about 1 percent of the courses being offered through a place of work. In this study, the researchers tested CDSMP and a workplace-tailored version of the program known as wCDSMP (also called Live Healthy, Work Healthy) and measured participants’ self-reported health indicators and data from various diagnostic tests at the beginning of the trial and at a six-month follow up.

CDSMP has been effectively used with older populations but needed revisions to make it more relevant to working-age adults—thus leading to the modified wCDSMP version. The researchers tested the two programs in two rural South Georgia communities, working with participants from a regional medical center, local government and different school systems among other employers.

“Despite being among the most widely available disease self-management program across the country and globe, the existing format and content of CDSMP hindered the program’s acceptability for younger workers with chronic conditions and prohibited its uptake in the workplace,” said Smith, lead author of the study.

Read the entire news release on the Texas A&M Vital Record news site.

— Rae Lynn Mitchell

Posted June 18, 2018.

Additional coverage at ASPPH Friday Letter.