Our interventions focus on preventing
obesity, tobacco dependence, substance abuse and often target vulnerable populations.
Imagine how much more difficult it would be to take steps toward health improvement if you were suffering from a serious mental illness or disability, or were a member of a vulnerable population, such as the frail elderly? The statistics are startling. People with serious mental illness, for example, die about 25 years earlier than the rest of the population, largely due to cardiovascular disease.
An interdisciplinary group of researchers at The Dartmouth Institute is working to design, test, and scale innovative new models for health interventions. The interventions we work on focus on preventing obesity, tobacco dependence, substance abuse and often target vulnerable populations, such frail elderly or those with serious mental illness. The Mobile Wellness Obesity Intervention, for example, which targets obese frail elderly patients, uses a simple Theraband and a health tracking device to provide in-home health and exercise promotion and real-time feedback between the patient and physical therapist. The hope is that patients using this technology will improve their physical function, allowing them to age-in-place.
While health interventions are among the most effective ways to prevent disease and improve the health of individuals and communities, we often lack evidence about what makes an intervention successful or how to scale-it up to reach a wide number of people. That’s why we are using data, collected by our researchers and others, to test effectiveness and determine the best evidence-based approaches to intervention. For example, our researchers are collecting and analyzing long-term data to determine if using incentives like fitness trainers, gym memberships, Weight Watchers memberships, and smoking cessation programs can help people who have mental health challenges make measurable health improvements.
We also are partnering with community mental health centers, community based organizations, and fitness centers to provide interventions, such as InSHAPE, an evidence-based health promotion program for individuals with serious mental illness. The InSHAPE intervention has proven successful with half of participants: Those participants achieved clinically significant weight loss or improved their fitness, and sustained those improvements over 18 months. Our scientists are now working to scale the InSHAPE model nationwide—studying how evidence-based health interventions like InSHAPE can be implemented in mental health organizations across the country.