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Increasing Provider Referrals to State Arthritis Programs

CDC Arthritis Program

Increasingly, research has shown that community-based self-management education and physical activity programs can reduce chronic disease symptoms and improve quality of life. However, participation in these programs remains low. From 2007-2013, Westat implemented a multi-phase process to understand the target audiences and then develop an outreach strategy using primary care providers (PCPs) to influence consumer behavior change.

First, we conducted formative research—a comprehensive literature review, in-depth interviews, and an online survey with PCPs—to identify factors that influence provider referrals to self-management programs. The key finding: PCPs want to learn about these programs through direct, in-person contact with knowledgeable professionals.

We then worked with CDC to develop the 1-2-3 Approach to Provider Outreach—a social marketing strategy centered around face-to-face outreach with PCPs. We designed the 1-2-3 Approach to be easy-to-use for novice marketers, and for health departments and their partners with limited resources. To support implementation, we developed a turnkey marketing toolkit with a how-to guide, training tools including a video showing a simulated visit, customizable fact sheets for providers and patients, and tracking and evaluation tools.

Pilot test findings showed preliminary support for the effectiveness of the 1-2-3 Approach in raising PCP awareness of the programs and increasing referrals. The 1-2-3 Approach and its packaging as a customizable do-it-yourself toolkit were found to be flexible, easy to use, and adaptable to local needs. Westat worked with CDC to refine the approach and toolkit. CDC launched it as an online resource to grantees and partners in June 2013. The training video won a 2013 Communicator Award.