Older women with heart diseases reap health benefits from educational programs, which are provided as supplements to clinical care, a new study shows.
The study, led by Noreen Clark, professor in the University of Michigan School of Public Health and director of the University's Centre for Managing Chronic Disease, suggests that if hospitals and clinicians offered specially designed group or individual programs, depending on the desired outcome, female heart patients over 60 would need less health care and have a better quality of life.
The study found that group programs worked significantly better when the patient's goal was to lose weight and increase physical activity. Self-directed programs worked significantly better when the patient's goal was to control symptoms.
The health programs can help patients lower cardiac symptoms, lose weight and increase physical activity.
In the study, researchers looked at 575 female heart patients 60 years of age or older from five hospitals and followed their progress for 18 months.
The team designed two educations programs based on theory and proven health research.
The women were assigned to one of three groups: the self-directed program, the group program, and the control group, which only had usual care from the doctor without any follow-up education program.
"We were surprised, we expected that one intervention would work better on all fronts," Clark said.
Clark said that the results would help clinicians treat patients more successfully.
She said that doctors are unable to personally offer in-depth education and counselling, yet they know that their patients need some type of supplemental support to adhere to prescribed cardiac care regimens.
"Every good clinician wants his or her patients to do well. Clinicians are very busy and can only provide basic education, not in-depth support of the type we are talking about here. This research suggests that if these educational programs were available the patient will do much better," she said.
The study, "Heart disease management by patients: Does intervention format matter?" is available online in the journal Health Behaviour & Education.