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Darin Zahuranec, MD

Funded by Veterans Affairs Health Services Research & Development CDA-2

Funding Years: 2014-2015

Despite the availability of evidence-based strategies to prevent type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), engagement in these strategies is low among at-risk Veterans. A key opportunity to engage at-risk Veterans in interventions to prevent T2DM is when they are informed they have prediabetes. It remains unclear how VHA communications to patients diagnosed with prediabetes could be optimized to improve their engagement in evidence-based preventive strategies.

  • Aim 1: To describe at-risk Veterans' current engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM and the mediators of this engagement.
  • Aim 2: To examine the effects of receipt of a prediabetes diagnosis on at-risk Veterans' weight and engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM.
  • Aim 3: To identify the effects of 4 strategies from behavioral economics and health psychology on weight, HbA1c, and engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM among Veterans with prediabetes.

To accomplish Aim 1, we will survey 189 non-diabetic Veterans with risk factors for T2DM about their engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM and mediators of this engagement such as risk perception, motivation, and awareness of and preferences for preventive strategies. To accomplish Aim 2, we will conduct a pilot randomized trial among the same 189 non-diabetic Veterans from Project 1 in which we will randomly assign 126 of these Veterans to undergo screening for T2DM using a hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) test. The 63 Veterans who we project will have HbA1c values in the prediabetes range will receive that diagnosis and preventive recommendations from their PACT provider via brief standardized counseling. All 189 Veterans will have their weight tracked over the next year and will be surveyed immediately after the screening and brief counseling process, at 3 months, and at 1 year. Then we will compare changes in weight, engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM, and mediators of this engagement between the 63 Veterans who we project will have prediabetes and the 63 Veterans who were not screened. Among the 63 Veterans with prediabetes, we will conduct 20 semi-structured interviews to gain insights into the effects of this diagnosis and brief counseling. To accomplish Aim 3, we will conduct a fractional factorial design experiment to evaluate the effectiveness of 4 innovative strategies from behavioral economics and health psychology in promoting weight loss, decreasing HbA1c, and increasing engagement in behaviors to prevent T2DM among 144 Veterans who are identified as having prediabetes through an HbA1c test. We will conduct qualitative evaluations of the acceptability of these strategies to patients.

PI(s): Jeffrey Kullgren

Sarah Hawley, PhD, MPH


Dr. Sarah T. Hawley is a Professor in the Division of General Medicine at the University of Michigan and a Research Investigator at the Ann Arbor VA Center of Excellence in Health Services Research & Development. She holds a PhD in health services research from the University of North Carolina and an MPH from Yale University Department of Public Health. Her primary research is in decision making related to cancer prevention and control, particularly among racial/ethnic minority and underserved populations.

Last Name: 

PIHCD Working Group

Thu, January 08, 2015, 3:00pm to 4:00pm

Jake Seagull will be speaking about prostate cancer shared decision making.

PIHCD: Tanner Caverly

Thu, February 12, 2015, 4:00pm
B004E NCRC Building 16

Tanner Caverly will be presenting on a decision tool about screening for lung cancer.

PIHCD: Geoff Barnes

Thu, September 24, 2015, 2:00pm
B003E NCRC Building 16

Geoff Barnes will present on analysis from a project about bridging anticoagulation decision making.

PIHCD: Michelle Moniz

Thu, October 22, 2015, 3:00pm
B004E NCRC Building 16

Michelle Moniz will be presenting a Specific Aims page for an NICHD K23 application about postpartum contraceptive decision-making.

Funded by National Science Foundation.

Funding Years: 2015-2017.

When thinking about infectious diseases and making decisions about how to protect themselves, people often overreact to infectious diseases with low risk of infection, such as Ebola, and at other times fail to respond to infectious diseases with higher risk of infection, such as the flu. Both types of responses can lead to negative outcomes such as stress and anxiety, less productivity at work, and inefficient use of healthcare resources (either using too much or too little depending on the disease). We think that one reason that people may exhibit these responses to infectious diseases is that there may be a conflict between their beliefs about their risk and their feelings about their risk. This research will examine areas of misinformation and emotional responses to three infectious diseases: Ebola, the flu, and MERS. After identifying key areas of misinformation and excessive or subdued emotional responses to these three diseases, the research team develops and tests a number of communication strategies that best correct misinformation and resolve conflicts between beliefs and feelings of risk to motivate more appropriate responses to infectious diseases. After determining which strategies are better at doing those things than others, the research team creates a website to display "best-practices" in communicating about infectious diseases.

This research involves conducting a number of web studies to investigate when and for whom cognitive- and affective-based communication strategies work best at modifying cognitions, affect, and behavioral intentions towards pandemic risks. The research uses the theory of "risk-as-feelings". These studies will advance our understanding of risk-as-feelings in a number of ways. First, the research team examines the frequency of simultaneous contradictory responses (SCRs) - when beliefs and feelings of risk conflict - at least with these three infectious diseases. Second, the research team tests for the existence of simultaneous contradictory affective responses. Third, the team then assesses the relative influence of cognitive and affective sources of information on cognitions, affective reactions, and behavioral intentions, as well as in the possible resolution of SCRs. Fourth, the application of risk-as-feelings to determine optimal communication strategies about these infectious diseases should serve as a test-case for the utility of incorporating risk-as-feelings into public health theories of health behavior and communication. Fifth, due to its foundation in the theory of risk-as-feelings, insights gleaned from the current studies should help shape the way information is communicated about other public health issues beyond these disease. And finally, the research tests whether resolving SCRs is key to inducing appropriate responses to pandemic risks or whether improving knowledge, acknowledging fears, and/or improving feelings of efficacy, is sufficient to improve responses, as would be predicted by standard health behavior theories from public health.

PI(s): Brian Zikmund-Fisher

Funded by Bristol Meyers Squibb/Pfizer

Funding years; 2014-2015

Co-PI: Geoffrey Barnes

Funded by Christiana Care Health System

Funding Years: 2013-2015

The purpose of this study is to assess in a pilot randomized controlled trial the following PICOT question: In parents facing extreme premature delivery, does the use of an existing validated visual decision aid as compared to standard counseling, reduce the primary outcome of parental decisional conflict? Furthermore, is such a decision aid understood and applicable across differing populations of different ethnic backgrounds and social classes?

PI(s): Naomi Laventhal