Background: Storytelling is emerging as a powerful tool for health promotion in vulnerable populations. However, these interventions remain largely untested in rigorous studies.
Objective: To test an interactive storytelling intervention involving DVDs.
Design: Randomized, controlled trial in which comparison patients received an attention control DVD. Separate random assignments were performed for patients with controlled or uncontrolled hypertension. (ClinicalTrials.gov registration number: NCT00875225)
Setting: An inner-city safety-net clinic in the southern United States.
Patients: 230 African Americans with hypertension.
Intervention: 3 DVDs that contained patient stories. Storytellers were drawn from the patient population.
Measurements: The outcomes were differential change in blood pressure for patients in the intervention versus the comparison group at baseline, 3 months, and 6 to 9 months.
Results: 299 African American patients were randomly assigned between December 2007 and May 2008 and 76.9% were retained throughout the study. Most patients (71.4%) were women, and the mean age was 53.7 years. Baseline mean systolic and diastolic pressures were similar in both groups. Among patients with baseline uncontrolled hypertension, reduction favored the intervention group at 3 months for both systolic (11.21 mm Hg [95% CI, 2.51 to 19.9 mm Hg]; P = 0.012) and diastolic (6.43 mm Hg [CI, 1.49 to 11.45 mm Hg]; P = 0.012) blood pressures. Patients with baseline controlled hypertension did not significantly differ over time between study groups. Blood pressure subsequently increased for both groups, but between-group differences remained relatively constant.
Limitation: This was a single-site study with 23% loss to follow-up and only 6 months of follow-up.
Conclusion: The storytelling intervention produced substantial and significant improvements in blood pressure for patients with baseline uncontrolled hypertension.
Primary funding source: Finding Answers: Disparities Research for Change, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.