Campus News

$3.15M grant aims to improve chronic disease management

Matthew Lee Smith

Researchers in the College of Public Health received a five-year, $3.15 million grant from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health. The grant is aimed at improving opportunities for individuals to better manage their chronic illness in the workplace.

Chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer are the leading cause of death and disability in the U.S. These diseases often can be prevented or better managed with early detection, improved diet, exercise and interactions with health care professionals.

Dual principal investigators leading the grant are Mark Wilson, associate dean and a professor, and Matthew Lee Smith, an assistant professor, both in the health promotion and behavior department.

“It is estimated that the number of workers between the ages of 65 and 74 will increase by 83 percent from 2006 to 2016, and those ages 75 and older will increase by 84 percent,” Wilson said. “Many of these older workers will have one or more chronic diseases.”

Obesity is also a major concern, Wilson said. The rates for obesity-related chronic conditions are rising among the younger adult population, which means they will live with chronic diseases and related symptoms for longer periods of time.

“All of these problems can lead to job loss or premature departure from the workforce,” Wilson said. “As a result, disease management is becoming an increasingly important part of maintaining a productive, competitive and ultimately healthy American workforce.”

To address this public health issue, Wilson and Smith will lead a team of UGA researchers to translate Stanford University’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, or CDSMP, for increased use in workplace settings.

Offered in more than 30 countries, the CDSMP is one of the best known and highly regarded self-management programs for people with chronic conditions. The highly interactive small-group workshops are six weeks long and focus on problems common to individuals dealing with any chronic condition, such as pain management, nutrition, exercise and medication use and communicating with doctors.

Wilson and Smith will examine how CDSMP workshops specifically adapted to workplace settings can influence health outcomes, work performance and productivity. The UGA project will estimate the costs of implementing the program as well as assess cost-effectiveness and return on investment for employers and communities.

The newly tailored programs will be implemented at seven work sites in Colquitt County. The Moultrie YMCA, led by director Greg Coop, has partnered with the UGA project to deliver the workshops and foster a sustainable presence in the community. 

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