Bringing Healthy Aging to Scale: A Randomized Trial of a Quality Improvement Intervention to Increase Adoption of Evidence-Based Health Promotion Programs by Community Partners

J Public Health Manag Pract. 2017 Sep/Oct;23(5):e17-e24. doi: 10.1097/PHH.0000000000000503.


Objective: To evaluate the effectiveness of a quality improvement intervention to increase delivery of 2 evidence-based health promotion workshops, Stepping On and Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP), in rural communities.

Design: A cluster-randomized wait-list control group design.

Setting: Rural Wisconsin counties with trained workshop leaders but no workshops in the prior year were eligible to participate.

Intervention: Sixteen counties were randomized to receive the NIATx intervention or wait-list control. The 1-year intervention consisted of training and coaching county aging unit staff to apply NIATx methods to increase and sustain the number of Stepping On or CDSMP workshops in their community.

Main outcomes: Mann-Whitney tests examined effect on workshops held, participants, and workshop completers. The paired Wilcoxon signed rank test explored change in participants' health behaviors and health care utilization.

Results: Counties receiving the NIATx intervention significantly increased the number of workshops per county per year as compared with baseline (1.5 vs 0.19, P < .001) and sustained improvements during the year following the intervention. Stepping On participants, during the 6 months postintervention, had reduced falls risk behaviors (P < .001), 0.43 fewer falls (P < .01), and 0.028 fewer medical record-verified emergency department visits for falls-related injuries (P < .05) compared with the 6 months before the intervention. CDSMP participants had reduced social isolation (P = .018) and improved physician communication skills (P = .005).

Implications: Our study demonstrates that coaching rural service organizations in use of the quality improvement process, NIATx, may increase implementation reach of evidence-based health promotion/disease prevention programs. Initiative findings indicate that this approach may be a new and potentially important strategy to increase reach of health promotion programs for older adults in community settings.

Conclusion: A quality improvement approach effectively increases and sustains delivery of evidence-based health promotion/workshops for older adults in rural communities. Counties or states struggling to engage older adults in evidence-based health promotion workshops could integrate quality improvement into policies and practices to increase workshop availability. Once engaged, older adults experience improved health behaviors from both programs and reduced falls and emergency department utilization from Stepping On.