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MU Receives Grant to Increase Doctor Dialogue With At-Risk Patients

Research will support Mid-Missouri clinics in changing behavior of patients with chronic conditions

Could exam room conversations about diet and exercise goals improve patients' health? That's what researchers at the University of Missouri want to find out through a new project funded by the Missouri Foundation for Health (MFH). An MFH grant awarded to MU will assist Mid-Missouri clinics in creating an electronic registry system. The system will help an estimated 2,300 area patients with chronic conditions to improve their long-term health.

"We want to see people set and meet behavioral goals for diet, exercise and smoking cessation, and we hope that this will lead to a decrease in their health complications down the road," said project leader Joseph LeMaster, MD, associate professor of family and community medicine at MU.

Conversations about a patient's everyday habits, such as smoking or diet, sometimes lose priority as physicians discuss other health matters, such as medication dosages or lab results.

"Behavior is a key piece to what is going on with patients' long-term health and is often ignored," LeMaster said. "The project provides the physician with a means to help patients commit to taking small, time-sensitive steps toward achieving their goals."

LeMaster's 2010 Advancing Chronic Care through Excellence in Systems and Support project will help clinics in Howard and Boone counties monitor health outcomes such as blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight of patients with hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure and type 2 diabetes. Providers and clinic staff will also assess patients' readiness to set goals to change health-related behavior such as smoking, diet and exercise.

Data from the study could eventually help many more patients, especially in Missouri where the need for management of chronic conditions is critical. Missouri is the 10th most obese state in the U.S., according to a July 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation report that shows 63.8 percent of adults in the state are obese or overweight. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data indicate nearly one-quarter of Missourians smoke, and every year, almost 10,000 Missourians die from tobacco-related illnesses.

The $300,000 MFH grant will help practices create the database infrastructure and offset the cost of additional time spent with patients.

MU Health Magazine


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