$2.5 million grant helping researchers improve health disparities in communities of color

University of South Florida researchers are undertaking a multi-year study designed to improve health outcomes and reduce hospital readmission for people of color managing chronic illnesses.

The study examines the impact of Care Transitions Intervention (CTI), a nationally recognized program that helps patients learn self-management skills to ensure their needs are met during the transition from the hospital to their home. CTI is widely recognized for its success helping to improve overall outcomes for patients, but little research exists on its impact within minority communities, an aspect USF investigators are confronting head-on.

“As a health disparities researcher, a great deal of our studies lead to interventions that are evidence-based. But the samples we use in those studies are often not fully diverse and don’t really give us an idea of whether or not these interventions work in vulnerable and marginalized populations,” says Kyaien Conner, the study’s principal investigator and an associate professor in USF’s College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

The work will take place over the next three years and is being funded by a $2.5 million grant from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI). The hope for patients is clear, says Conner: Examine interventions that reduce hospital readmission and improve post-discharge outcomes, including mortality rates, quality of life and more, for older African American, Latino and Hispanic patients. Beyond that, Conner says hospitals are also in a position to benefit from this research, as they can be financially penalized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for having higher-than-average readmission rates for certain chronic health conditions.

The study will recruit more than 400 African American, Latino and Hispanic patients, age 60 and older, at three partner-hospitals, Tampa General, Advent Health and Lakeland Regional. Once recruited, researchers will monitor participants over the course of the study, starting from when they’re in the hospital to after they’ve been discharged and sent home. One-third of patients will be discharged without additional assistance. Another third will receive the traditional CTI care plan. And the final third will participate in the CTI program as well as receive additional peer support, an aspect of the study that Conner believes will show further benefits.

“If we have an empirically supported intervention, like CTI, that we can adapt, modify or enhance with aspects that are more culturally relevant and meaningful, such as peer support, then perhaps we’re able to make sure that these interventions are going to be successful in any population,” Conner says. “That’s really the goal of this project.”

Conner began this work more than two years ago with a pilot study focused on the peer support aspect. That project, while narrowly focused, revealed significant improvements in overall patient well-being when peer support was utilized, as human beings tend to respond more effectively when support systems consist of people from their immediate communities. This new study will expand on that work and provide patients, caregivers and hospitals with the evidence needed to make informed decisions that can improve patient health outcomes.

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