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Liz Jacobs

University of Wisconsin Approved for $2.1 Million Funding Award by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute

Liz JacobsCan peer support do a better job than standard community services of keeping elderly people out of hospitals and nursing homes?

A University of Wisconsin-Madison research team led by Dr. Elizabeth Jacobs, associate professor of medicine and associate vice chair for health services research, was awarded $2.1 million by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study “The Effectiveness of Peer-to-Peer Community Support to Promote Aging in Place.” This three-year study is one of 33 grants approved in this year’s cycle by PCORI.

The study will compare community-based, peer-to-peer support to standard community services in the promotion of health and wellness in older adults at risk for frequent use of acute-health care services and/or nursing home placement.

“Only about 10 percent of grants were approved this cycle, so this speaks to the skill and community partnerships we have at Wisconsin. Our planning is already underway and we are very proud of our robust partnership with the Milwaukee-based Alliance for Children and Families, a nationwide network of nearly 500 nonprofit human-serving organizations. The fact that our work is of import to patients, their families, and is community-based research helped us secure the grant and gave us the best real-world context in which to conduct this study,” said Jacobs.

While the investigative team is based in Madison, study participants, adults over age 65, will be from three different communities across the country: Los Angeles, California; Palm Beach, Florida; and Rochester, New York. Each of those communities has established peer-to-peer programs by robust community-based nonprofit organizations that are members of the Alliance for Children and Families. They include Jewish Family Service of Los Angeles; Alpert Jewish Family & Children‘s Service of Palm Beach, and The Community of Place of Greater Rochester. A total of 360 participants will be followed over 12 months, comparing at-risk older adults receiving peer-to-peer support to the same number of at-risk older adults who receive standard community services. 

“Peer-to-peer support is basically like having a trusted friend to help you. My job is to study and find evidence of the effectiveness of this support. These three communities will give us a great opportunity to generate evidence that could be widely applied across the country,” said Jacobs.

The study will examine how peer-to-peer support enhances over-all well-being, and affects rates of depression and anxiety. The research team will also assess whether it prevents hospitalization, emergency-department visits, and nursing-home placement.

“The aging population would like to age in the communities where they live, but that has become increasingly difficult because of the structure and lack of services. We believe older adults in the peer-to-peer support groups will have lower rates of hospitalization, emergency-department visits, and nursing home placements compared to the standard service group,” said Jacobs.

Participants will be able to enroll in the study starting next spring.

Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is an independent, non-profit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. PCORI has approved nearly $549 million to support 313 research studies and initiatives since it began funding in 2012.

August 28, 2014. Press Release Contact: Emily Kumlien, (608) 265-8199 or (608) 516-9154, sends e-mail) 

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