How Groups Can Affect Health & Behavior Change - Health Literacy Discussion List


Peer support has been found to be an effective method for encouraging healthy behavior change. There are many models for this, including group medical appointments, community health workers or promontoras, and peer support groups, such as those that have made Weight Watchers the most consistently successful weight control program. The success of peer support has also been shown in adult education classes that have taken on health as a context for learning literacy and English as a second language. The concept of “collective efficacy” has been identified as a phenomenon that promotes more effective change in a group setting than would happen in isolation.

In this discussion with Geri Lynn Baumblatt, an award-winning specialist in health literacy and patient engagement, we will look at some different methods of peer support and explore how each of us can use this concept to help our patients, students or community members improve their health.

We will look at and discuss case studies, including:

  • shared or group medical appointments
  • community health worker programs
  • health projects based in literacy classes
  • both formally and informally created support groups

Some of the models for these case studies will be introduced and discussed by those who have developed and used these methods in practice.

This discussion will also be cross-posted to the blog Engaging the Patient:

Guest Biographies

Geri Lynn Baumblatt, M.A.:

As Editorial Director of Emmi Solutions, Geri is an experienced health literacy professional. She oversees the development of all multimedia patient education Emmi programs, which include programs to prepare patients for procedures, educate them about health conditions and device use, and shared decision making programs.

Her work has won numerous awards for innovation in patient communication ( ) - including the 2007 IHA Health Literacy Award. Geri is also the organizer of Engaging the Patient's ( ) October Health Literacy Series. She also serves on the AHRQ Technical Expert Panel for Improving EHR Patient Education Materials and recently presented on Patient Engagement at the 2011 Wisconsin Health Literacy Summit.

As part of the content and program development process, Geri regularly oversees patient focus groups. During these focus groups, patients almost universally reject the idea of formal support groups when asked about it. Yet it almost always becomes obvious that during the focus group, a support group has in fact formed. People are often trading information for doctors and specialists. And they're energized, comforted, and inspired by talking with others dealing with the same condition.

Zeev Neuwirth, who will discuss shared medical appointments:

Dr. Zeev Neuwirth is the Chief of Clinical Effectiveness & Innovation at Atrius Health. In this role, he leads the organization's efforts developing and implementing innovations in health care delivery, such as a shared medical appointments program.

Rainy Warf, who will discuss Canyon Ranch Institute's Life Enhancement Program:

Rainy Warf, is the Evaluation Coordinator for the Canyon Ranch Institute Life Enhancement Program. In this role she supports the development and evaluation of the program, ensuring measurement of the true impact of the participants' experience.

Preparation Resources

Two links to videos about shared appointments:

A post to this discussion list from an adult education teacher who addressed health in her English as a Second Language class. She describes the power of the group and collective efficacy:

Building Peer Support Programs to Manage Chronic Disease: Seven Models for Success

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