Examining the Impact of a Peer-Led Group Program for Veteran Engagement and Well-Being

Author: Melissa H Abadi1, Anna M Barker2, Sowmya R Rao3, Michelle Orner2, David Rychener1, Barbara G Bokhour2,4
Affiliation: <sup>1</sup> Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, Louisville Center, Louisville, KY, USA. <sup>2</sup> Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research (CHOIR), ENRM VA Medical Center, Bedford, MA, USA. <sup>3</sup> Department of Global Health and Policy &amp; Management, Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), Boston, MA, USA. <sup>4</sup> Department of Health Law, Policy &amp; Management, Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), Boston, MA, USA.
Conference/Journal: J Altern Complement Med
Date published: 2021 Mar 1
Other: Volume ID: 27 , Issue ID: S1 , Pages: S37-S44 , Special Notes: doi: 10.1089/acm.2020.0124. , Word Count: 349

Objectives: Veterans often suffer from multiple chronic illnesses, including mental health disorders, diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. The improvement of engagement in their own health care is critical for enhanced well-being and overall health. Peer-led group programs may be an important tool to provide support and skill development. We conducted a pilot study to explore the impact of a peer-led group-based program that teaches Veterans to become empowered to engage in their own health and well-being through mindful awareness practices, self-care strategies, and setting life goals. Design: Surveys were collected before and immediately after participation in the Taking Charge of My Life and Health (TCMLH) peer-led group program. Settings/location: Sessions were held in non-clinical settings within a VA medical center in the Midwest. Subjects: Our sample comprised 48 Veteran participants who were enrolled in TCMLH and completed a pretest and post-test survey. Intervention: TCMLH is a 9-week peer-led group program with an established curriculum that leverages the power of peer support to improve patient engagement, empowerment, health, and well-being among Veterans through Whole Health concepts, tools, and strategies. Programs were led by 1 of 12 trained Veteran peer facilitators. Outcome measures: Program impact on Veteran well-being was assessed by pre-post measures, including the Patient Activation Measure (PAM), the Perceived Stress Scale (PSS), the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System Scale (PROMIS-10), the Perceived Health Competency Scale (PHCS), and the Life Engagement Test (LET). Results: There was a significant decrease in perceived stress (PSS score). Significant improvements were also seen in mental health and quality of life (PROMIS-10), participant accordance with the statement "I have a lot of reasons for living" (LET), and patient engagement (PAM score). Conclusions: As the Whole Health movement expands-both in VA and elsewhere-our findings suggest that guiding patients in an exploration of their personal values and life goals can help in key areas of patient engagement and mental and physical health outcomes. Further study is warranted, and expansion of the TCMLH program will allow for a more rigorous evaluation with a larger sample size.

Keywords: Veteran; Whole Health; group-based program; patient activation; patient-centered care; peer-led.

PMID: 33788603 DOI: 10.1089/acm.2020.0124