Center on Psychiatric Disability and Co-Occurring Medical Conditions

Research Projects /
Use of Health Screening Data to Create a Risk Profile of Medical Co-Morbidities Among Public Mental Health Clients

Chicago Maryland

This research project involves conducting health screenings of people with serious mental illness in a variety of service settings throughout the U.S. in order to estimate the prevalence of medical co-morbidities in this population. Also being assessed is the impact of providing participants with information and encouragement for enhancing their overall health. The project involves collaboration with organizations participating in research or training projects with the Center, including Way Station and St. Lukes behavioral health centers in Maryland; Thresholds Psychiatric Rehabilitation Centers in Illinois; Baltic Street peer program in New York; American Work community mental health centers in Georgia; Collaborative Support Programs of New Jersey and other NJ peer-led programs; and Recovery Innovations mental health programs in Arizona.

Approximately 100 individuals are being screened at each location over a three-day period. Screening tests include measures of weight, height, and waist circumference to calculate body mass index; blood pressure reading; Glycolated Hemoglobin (A1c) level; blood lipid test; nicotine use; and drug and alcohol use. Participants also provide information regarding demographic characteristics, current health status, health beliefs, and engagement with primary health care. Screenings are staffed by RNs who handle all blood work and test readings, along with trained volunteers including certified peer specialists from the local area. All volunteers receive a 5-hour training prior to the screening, along with an honorarium for their time. Each agency receives a payment for allowing the project to use its facilities.

Health screening participants provide informed consent confirming their willingness to undergo the screening procedures and have their health information used for research purposes. At the end of the screening, participants take home a “Health Passport” with their test results, along with health information related to their individual needs. They also receive a $5 gift card from a local pharmacy to thank them for their time. Multivariable data analysis is being used to examine associations between screening results and participants’ background characteristics and previously diagnosed conditions. Results will inform the field about health risks encountered by recipients of public mental health services, and any attitudinal changes participants experience after undergoing the screening.


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