Background: Seniors living in subsidized housing have lower income, poorer health, and increased risk for cardiometabolic diseases and falls. Seniors also account for more than one third of calls to Emergency Medical Services (EMS). This study examines the effectiveness of the Community Health Assessment Program through EMS (CHAP-EMS) in reducing blood pressure, diabetes risk, and EMS calls.
Methods: Paramedics on modified duty (e.g. injured) conducted weekly, one-on-one drop-in sessions in a common area of one subsidized senior's apartment building in Hamilton, Ontario. Paramedics assessed cardiovascular, diabetes, and fall risk, provided health education, referred participants to local resources, and encouraged participants to return to CHAP-EMS for follow-up. Reports were faxed to the family physician regularly. Blood pressure was collected throughout the one year intervention, while diabetes risk was assessed at baseline and after 6-12 months. EMS call volumes were collected from the Hamilton Paramedic Service for two years pre-intervention and one year during the intervention.
Results: There were 79 participants (mean age = 72.2 years) and 1,365 participant visits to CHAP-EMS. The majority were female (68%), high school educated or less (53%), had a family doctor (90%), history of hypertension (58%), high waist circumference (64%), high body mass index (61%), and high stress (53%). Many had low physical activity (42%), high fat intake (33%), low fruit/vegetable intake (30%), and were current smokers (29%). At baseline, 42% of participants had elevated blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure decreased significantly by the participant's 3rd visit to CHAP-EMS and diastolic by the 5th visit (p < .05). At baseline, 19% of participants had diabetes; 67% of those undiagnosed had a moderate or high risk based on the Canadian Diabetes Risk (CANRISK) assessment. 15% of participants dropped one CANRISK category (e.g. high to moderate) during the intervention. EMS call volume decreased 25% during the intervention compared to the previous two years.
Conclusions: CHAP-EMS was associated with a reduction in emergency calls and participant blood pressure and a tendency towards lowered diabetes risk after one year of implementation within a low income subsidized housing building with a history of high EMS calls.
Trial registration: Retrospectively registered on May 12th 2016 with clinicaltrials.gov: NCT02772263.
Keywords: Cardiovascular disease; Community paramedicine; Diabetes risk; Elderly; Falls; Intervention; Low income.