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VA RESEARCH QUARTERLY UPDATE
This Issue: Ensuring High-Quality Care | Table of Contents: Fall 2018 | Download this issue

Noteworthy Publications

Coaching healthy behaviors in Veterans at risk for heart disease


Completing an online health assessment was more effective at reducing Veterans' risk for heart disease when combined with telephone coaching, according to a VA study. <em>(Photo ©iStock/Hirurg)</em>
Completing an online health assessment was more effective at reducing Veterans' risk for heart disease when combined with telephone coaching, according to a VA study. (Photo ©iStock/Hirurg)

Completing an online health assessment was more effective at reducing Veterans' risk for heart disease when combined with telephone coaching, according to a VA study. (Photo ©iStock/Hirurg)

In a study published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, VA investigators examined the effectiveness of two interventions to help patients reduce their risk for heart disease. They found that an online health risk assessment was more effective at motivating Veterans to address modifiable risk factors like smoking, when combined with telephone health coaching.

Dr. Eugene Z. Oddone at the Durham VA Medical Center and colleagues enrolled 417 Veterans in a randomized clinical trial at three VA medical centers. Study participants had at least one modifiable risk factor for heart disease—a BMI greater than 30, less than 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, or currently being a smoker.

After enrollment, Veterans were asked to complete an online health risk assessment (HRA) available through MyHealtheVet—the VA's online health portal. When complete, the HRA provided patients with an estimated chronological age based on their health status, and a list of recommendations to help address health risks. Following completion of the HRA, study participants were randomized into two groups. One group received only the HRA, and the other received the HRA plus two telephone sessions with a health coach.

The coaches used motivational interviewing techniques to help Veterans identify and set goals to address one health risk, and to enroll in a targeted prevention program. They also worked to educate Veterans on how much cardiovascular risks could be reduced by improving diet, stopping smoking, increasing physical activity, and losing weight.

At six months, Veterans who received both the HRA and health coaching were more likely to have enrolled in a prevention program (51 vs. 29 percent), had greater program participation (40 vs. 23 percent), and greater improvement in patient activation measures.


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