Background. Women are the fastest-growing segment of Veterans Healthcare Administration (VA) utilizers. Although men and women Veterans both report high rates of chronic pain, rates are higher in women. Addressing their unique needs is a priority. VA has placed renewed emphasis on promoting self-management for pain. Despite having a widely supported program for doing so, cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain (CBT-CP), several barriers to accessing this care and engaging optimally with its recommendations are noted and these may be particularly salient for women. These include logistical, healthcare delivery, and psychosocial barriers. Patient-centered efforts to address these in the context of evidence-based pain interventions, like CBT-CP, may translate to improved treatment access, engagement, adherence, and more optimal outcomes for women Veterans. Accordingly, a home-based, intervention integrating an evidence- based CBT-CP program with reciprocal peer support (RPS) has been developed (CONNECT) and is currently being pre-piloted. Results are promising but substantial refinement and feasibility testing is warranted before a full-scale trial is warranted. This proposal will optimize the feasibility and acceptability of CONNECT and examine the potential feasibility of candidate control conditions for a future randomized trial. Significance/Impact: Because CONNECT is less resource-intensive than CBT-CP and because it is home based, it may reduce costs and improve access to behavioral pain care, and its success may have implications for male Veterans with pain. It targets previously unaddressed and potentially modifiable factors (e.g. social support) thought to be relevant for adjustment and uptake of pain self-management among women Veterans. Innovation: CONNECT examines an alternate method for promoting CBT-CP that is potentially scalable, cost- effective and transportable.
Specific Aims :
Aim 1 a. Solicit Veteran feedback on the refined recruitment strategies, treatment components and materials, duration/content, engagement strategies peer-matching and data collection methods.
Aim 1 b. Evaluate the feasibility (retention, adherence, assessment methods, recruitment rate) and acceptability (credibility, satisfaction) of a refined 8-week RPS pain self-management intervention (CONNECT) in a sample of 30 women Veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain.
Aim 1 c: Conduct a responder analysis to classify the percentage of women Veterans that evidence clinically meaningful improvements in pain intensity/interference and depressive symptoms.
Aim 2 : Use qualitative methodology to a) examine participant perceptions regarding satisfaction/acceptability of CONNECT, and of specific components, and b) examine participant perceptions of underlying mechanisms.
Aim 3 : In preparation for a future randomized-controlled trial (RCT), conduct a feasibility analysis to determine preferences for treatment using the prospective preference assessment, which includes a) qualitative interviews to query motivations for, concerns about and factors influencing participation in a future RCT as well as survey measures to assess b) willingness to be randomized to candidate control conditions, and c) factors influencing their willingness. Methodology: A single arm pilot design and an analogue study to examine the feasibility of randomization to candidate control conditions. Next Steps/Implementation. If CONNECT is feasible a Hybrid Type 1 trial will be warranted to determine whether providers may confidently recommend CONNECT to women Veterans and to examine implementation factors.

Public Health Relevance

Women represent the fastest growing segment of VA utilizers and over 75% report chronic pain. Developing gender-sensitive VA pain care programs to meet the unique needs of this population is a priority. Nationally, there is renewed emphasis on promoting pain self-management to improve quality of life and to reduce reliance on potentially risky medication regimens. At present, VA has a highly effective behavioral pain self- management program, cognitive behavioral therapy for chronic pain (CBT-CP), but logistical, healthcare delivery and psychosocial barriers make it difficult for women Veterans, in particular, to take advantage of it. Accordingly, a novel home-based intervention integrating CBT-CP with peer support was developed (CONNECT). The proposed study will determine whether CONNECT is both feasible for and accessible to women Veterans with chronic pain while evaluating the feasibility of candidate control conditions for a future effectiveness trial. .

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Veterans Affairs (VA)
Veterans Administration (IK2)
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VA Connecticut Healthcare System
West Haven
United States
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