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Older workers benefit from high-tech,
high-touch health promotion
April 27, 2011--Older workers benefit most from
a modest health behavior program when it
combines a web-based risk assessment with
University of Illinois at Chicago researchers
conducted a randomized trial to evaluate two
worksite wellness interventions assessing
older workers' health behaviors and
outcomes. The findings are available online
and will be published in an upcoming issue
of the American Journal of Public Health.
The health behaviors that were examined were
physical activity, diet, stress reduction
and smoking cessation, says Susan Hughes,
professor of community health sciences,
co-director of the UIC Center for Research
on Health and Aging at the Institute for
Health Research and Policy, and principal
investigator of the study.
The researchers enrolled 423 participants into
three study groups: the COACH intervention,
a Web-based risk assessment with personal
coaching support; the RealAge intervention,
a Web-based risk assessment with
behavior-specific online modules; and a
control group that received printed
Participants ranged in age from 40 to 68 and
were staff at UIC. Measures of healthy
behaviors and weight, body mass index and
waist circumference were assessed at
baseline, six months after baseline and 12
months after baseline.
"What we found is that there were real
differences in uptake between the two
groups," Hughes said. "Ninety-five percent
of people in the COACH program actually used
the COACH intervention, as compared to 59
percent of people in the RealAge arm."
Both COACH and RealAge use websites to provide
standardized risk assessments, develop risk
appraisals, and give participants
suggestions for pursing health-related
behavior change. The COACH intervention also
incorporates individualized counseling -- by
phone and in person -- with a public
health-educated coach to assist participants
with their health-related goals.
RealAge participants were sent one email
message to remind them to access the RealAge
Web site, but it was up to the individual to
stick with the program and determine how
much interaction they would have with the
website to meet their goals.
At six and 12 months, participants in the COACH
program reported eating significantly more
fruits and vegetables than the control group
and also reported significantly more minutes
of physical activity. They also reported a
significant reduction in dietary fat intake
at 12 months.
In contrast, the RealAge group experienced one
significant outcome. They had a decline in
waist circumference at six months that was
maintained at 12 months.
The researchers are curious to understand how
that happened. "That's another puzzle,"
Hughes said. "We have to go back and look at
the data for an explanation of this