A new partnership with the W. Montague Cobb/National Medical Association Health Institute could lead to hundreds of African American doctors being trained in a nationally-recognized HIV prevention intervention developed at CHIP.
With UConn Incentive Grant funding, UConn’s Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (CICATS) and the Cobb/NMA will train physicians in the east coast region of the NMA in CHIP’s Options intervention. Following successful completion of the pilot project, the partners will seek additional grant funding for a nationwide roll-out of Options to the NMA’s full membership.
Using powerful health behavior change methods, Options enlists trusted healthcare providers to talk with HIV-positive patients during routine medical appointments about reducing their risky sexual and drug use behaviors. Clinicians work collaboratively with patients in assessing their risky behaviors and willingness to change. Together, clinicians and patients then develop strategies and set future goals that are written out in a “prescription” for safer sex or drug use behaviors.
The intervention, developed by a research team led by CHIP Director and Professor of Psychology Jeffrey Fisher and CHIP Associate Director Deborah Corrnman, is one of the few risk reduction interventions for use with HIV-positive patients. It has been tested with urban populations and proven effective in the U.S. and South Africa. It also has been lauded by the CDC as a promising intervention and included in its Compendium of Evidence-Based HIV Prevention Interventions.
Options has been funded by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Department of Defense.
To date, over 500 trainings in Options have been completed both nationally and internationally.
The NMA is the oldest and largest organization of African American physicians in the United States with a mission to create parity and justice in medicine for African American physicians and their patients. The Cobb Institute was created in 2004 by the NMA to promote wellness, conduct research and eliminate health disparities including in the area of HIV/AIDS.
“This is an ideal partnership at an opportune time,” Fisher said. “We’ll be putting an intervention that has been proven effective into practice with one of the populations at greatest risk for new HIV infections.”
African Americans account for 45 percent of new HIV infections – more than any other ethnic or racial group in the U.S. – yet they make up only 12 percent of the total U.S. population.
“Healthcare providers have an excellent opportunity to address risk behaviors and reinforce safer
behaviors in their HIV-positive patients, because they have a trusting relationship and repeated contact for reinforcement,” Fisher explained.
Options, which Fisher’s team developed in consultation with physicians and patients, uses a patient-centered, non-judgmental and supportive approach.
CICATS and Cobb/NMA formed its partnership in July 2009.
Fisher, Cornman and the CHIP research team, including the Cobb/NMA Options Project Coordinator Joanne Cunningham, are working with Dr. Randall Morgan, Jr., executive director of the Cobb Institute, and Dr. Nicole Jarrett, director of Health Policy Research for the NMA.
To date, a daylong meeting with Dr. Morgan and Dr. Jarrett was held at the UConn Health Center campus in early January as part of a broader Cobb/NMA and UConn Planning Committee Meeting hosted by Dr. Judith Fifield, director of the Ethel Donaghue Center for Translating Research into Practice and Policy. In mid-January, an 11-member Cobb/NMA UConn Options Advisory Board, comprised of nationally known physicians and HIV specialists, was convened and the first board meeting was held in early February.
Most recently, Fisher, Cornman and Cunningham attended the 11th Annual Scientific Colloquium held in Arlington, Virginia. There, Fisher made a presentation to the NMA attendees about the Options project.
The first focus groups for the pilot project are planned for early summer with physician trainings to follow.
The UConn Incentive Grant was awarded to Fisher and Fifield, partners in the Community Engagement Core of CICATS.