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Peer-Based Storytelling

Peer-Based Storytelling Cooper Green Mercy Hospital
Birmingham, Alabama
Hypertension
African American

Project

Patients receive a series of three DVDs that feature peers from the community talking about their own experiences controlling high blood pressure.

Each DVD has two sections:“Storytelling” and “Learn More.” In the Storytelling section, patients share their experiences on topics such as living with hypertension, changing diet and behaviors, following their medication plans, and communicating with physicians. The “Learn More” section features educational segments on understanding blood pressure, avoiding hidden sodium, and getting enough exercise.

To create the DVDs, project leaders selected 14 patients from a series of six focus groups, recorded interviews with them, and chose clips from those interviews to be included in the DVDs.
Patients watch the first DVD at Cooper Green, where they also receive a DVD player, if needed, and instructions on how to use it. They view the next two DVDs in their own homes.

Rationale

Controlling blood pressure is difficult because it requires patients to closely follow their provider’s instructions, including taking their medication as prescribed, changing their diet, exercising and keeping their appointments. Sometimes, social and cultural norms and a patient’s environment can challenge the physician-recommended treatment and lifestyle changes that can lead to blood pressure control.

By presenting evidence-based, physician-endorsed health information using a peer-to-peer model, This project aims to bridge that gap. Peer-to-peer learning can be invaluable among patient populations that have reason to distrust the medical establishment and may prefer to take health-behavior cues from friends and family. Receiving physician-approved information from peers may help patients make health-related choices in a more culturally relevant and personally meaningful way that informs and inspires positive health behavior changes.

Summary Results

Culturally tailored DVDs featuring peers sharing their own experiences with controlling hypertension were successful in significantly reducing patients' systolic blood pressure at a three month follow-up (-17 mm Hg vs -7 mm Hg in controls).

Publications

Culturally Appropriate Storytelling to Improve Blood Pressure: A Randomized Trial
Annals of Internal Medicine. 2011 Jan; 154: 77-84.
Full Article (subscription may be required)

Principal Investigators

  • Thomas K. Houston, MD, MPD
  • Jeroan J. Allison, MD, MSc
  • Sandral Hullett, MD, MPH