HSS Experts Share Best Practices for Community-Based Interventions in Diverse Aging Populations
At the American Public Health Association’s 2019 Annual Meeting and Expo in Philadelphia, health education experts from the HSS Education Institute at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) shared best practices for public health interventions that target the unmet needs of older adults.
“With people living longer, the challenge is to help them stay healthy and active, and maintain a high quality of life, regardless of the onset of chronic musculoskeletal health conditions,” said Robyn Wiesel, associate director, Public and Patient Education at HSS. “Here at HSS, we develop impactful community-based interventions by delivering education programming through self-management and outreach programs, exercise classes and social support groups.
Wiesel kicked off the symposium with a discussion of how HSS adopts the Community Benefit Participatory Research (CBPR) approach to program development and implementation, which begins with engaging the public with community health needs assessments, prioritizing the health needs and maintaining and evaluating partnerships. Programs are then evaluated, followed by the dissemination of results and input from the community. “This approach has enabled HSS to foster a collaborative environment where feedback from community members, patients, physicians and community partners provide valuable insights that identify gaps and inform future program development,” she said.
Pamela Sanchez-Villagomez, manager of the Stamford Education Initiative, discussed the importance of partnerships to bring health education initiatives into the community. These programs have helped 3,216 community members improve their musculoskeletal health.
“Establishing meaningful partnerships has enabled HSS to make community-based interventions accessible and empower members of our diverse communities to lead healthier lives,” said Sanchez-Villagomez. “Our culturally and socially sensitive approach to education has improved musculoskeletal health and mobility and increased our reach in these medically underserved communities.”
Claudia Zurlini, senior coordinator, Public and Patient Education, spoke about effective strategies to increase activity in an aging population. She presented study results for an HSS exercise program for older adults. To date, the program has reached more than 18,000 participants and has led to significant reductions in pain (30%), fatigue (28%) and stiffness (20%), an 18% increase in physical activity.
“Our exercise program provided participants with a comfortable environment, social support and instructors who tailored exercises for those with chronic conditions,” said Zurlini. “Participants also reported that they preferred our exercise program because HSS is a trusted organization.”
Maggie Wimmer, coordinator of programs and outcomes, Public and Patient Education, shared how HSS self-management education programs help patients with chronic musculoskeletal conditions learn strategies and skills to reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life. Aspects of the programs include guided meditation, instructional workshops and on-demand videos and conference calls for additional at-home support. In total, 91% of participants reported an increased ability to apply learned techniques to manage their conditions, and 40% were using the skills multiple times per week. They also reported reduced stiffness and fatigue and improved balance.
“Self-management is critical to provide older adults with the knowledge, skills and confidence to cope with chronic conditions,” said Wimmer. “HSS has developed programs for diverse patient populations within the hospital and beyond our doors, improving musculoskeletal health across the communities we serve.”
Finally, Linda Roberts, assistant manager of the Greenberg Academy for Successful Aging, described how HSS hosts hands-on workshops, including using computers to access credible healthcare information, monthly social work led support groups and weekly exercise classes tailored for older adults that actively address their needs to connect with others.
“Participants were relieved to hear that others share their concerns about aging, and to see how their peers face the emotional and physical challenges that come with getting older,” said Roberts. “Our programs have successfully increased socialization among participants, helping them combat loneliness through connections with others facing similar issues. Research shows that older adults who have meaningful connections are more likely to maintain their well-being, very likely to visit healthcare professionals when needed, and less likely to neglect their health.”
HSS has built a robust offering of programs for diverse aging populations. “As a specialty hospital focusing on musculoskeletal health, one of our goals is to develop programming focused on helping older adults maintain their mobility for as long as possible,” Wiesel said. “By promoting active aging, we are helping more older adults live with less pain, illness and fatigue, and enjoy a higher quality of life.”
HSS is the world’s leading academic medical center focused on musculoskeletal health. At its core is Hospital for Special Surgery, nationally ranked No. 1 in orthopedics (for the 14th consecutive year), No. 2 in rheumatology by U.S. News & World Report (2023-2024), and the best pediatric orthopedic hospital in NY, NJ and CT by U.S. News & World Report “Best Children’s Hospitals” list (2023-2024). In a survey of medical professionals in more than 20 countries by Newsweek, HSS is ranked world #1 in orthopedics for a third consecutive year (2023). Founded in 1863, the Hospital has the lowest readmission rates in the nation for orthopedics, and among the lowest infection and complication rates. HSS was the first in New York State to receive Magnet Recognition for Excellence in Nursing Service from the American Nurses Credentialing Center five consecutive times. An affiliate of Weill Cornell Medical College, HSS has a main campus in New York City and facilities in New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Long Island and Westchester County regions of New York State, as well as in Florida. In addition to patient care, HSS leads the field in research, innovation and education. The HSS Research Institute comprises 20 laboratories and 300 staff members focused on leading the advancement of musculoskeletal health through prevention of degeneration, tissue repair and tissue regeneration. In addition, more than 200 HSS clinical investigators are working to improve patient outcomes through better ways to prevent, diagnosis, and treat orthopedic, rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases. The HSS Innovation Institute works to realize the potential of new drugs, therapeutics and devices. The HSS Education Institute is a trusted leader in advancing musculoskeletal knowledge and research for physicians, nurses, allied health professionals, academic trainees, and consumers in more than 165 countries. The institution is collaborating with medical centers and other organizations to advance the quality and value of musculoskeletal care and to make world-class HSS care more widely accessible nationally and internationally. www.hss.edu.