The AAFP announced earlier this year that it was exploring partnership opportunities with the YMCA of the USA to emphasize the role of fitness in preventing and treating chronic conditions. Now, the AAFP National Research Network, or AAFP NRN, is recruiting practices to put one such collaborative project to the test. (Editor's Note: Recruitment is now closed.)
Starting in January, a 24-month pilot funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, or AHRQ, will examine a quality improvement project that links seven primary care practices to existing community resources at the YMCA in Providence, R.I.
"AHRQ recognizes that family physicians don't always have time in a fee-for-service setting to counsel patients for overweight and obesity," said AAFP NRN senior scientist Elizabeth Stewart, Ph.D., who is the project's principal investigator. "We're trying to create sustainable strategies that allow physicians to refer patients to resources that already exist in their communities."
Stewart said the YMCA of Greater Providence was chosen for the first phase of the pilot because of its innovative lifestyle programs. Each participating practice will be introduced to concepts of the AAFP's Americans In Motion-Healthy Interventions, or AIM-HI, program. Each practice then will be asked to recruit 12-20 adult patients to participate in one of two of the YMCA's existing programs:
- a diabetes prevention program designed for individuals with prediabetes or
- a healthy lifestyle program designed for people interested in making behavior changes.
Researchers will track the number of patients referred to the YMCA programs and the number who actually enroll, as well as patient outcomes, such as body mass index and blood pressure changes.
Researchers also will collect data related to the project's effect on practices, such as workflow modifications, infrastructure requirements for maintaining the link to the YMCA, and changes in office culture or practices.
The pilot will be evaluated based on practices' willingness to maintain the linkage to the YMCA; the YMCA's willingness to maintain their link to the practices; and the number of patients who enroll in YMCA programs, complete those programs and engage in maintenance components of the programs.
"If we can show that this works, the YMCA is on board with disseminating this model throughout the country," Stewart said, "so we're interested in finding out if there are doctors who would be interested in participating in future projects."
Stewart said the second phase of the project would focus on pilot testing a toolkit with yet-to-be determined branches of the YMCA, which operates in about 10,000 communities nationwide.
Rhode Island practices interested in participating in phase one of the pilot and practices interested in participating in phase two and/or learning about linking their practices to YMCA resources may e-mail AAFP NRN senior research associate Angela Lanigan.