Obesity is a significant risk factor for many comorbid health conditions contributing to earlier deaths of people with severe mental illnesses. Weight problems and obesity are even worse among African Americans with severe mental illnesses. Doing community- based participatory research (CBPR) with a consumer advisory board (CAB), we will conduct mixed methods research with African Americans with severe mental illness to better understand the nature of the problem and possible solutions. While some success has been found in adapting cognitive-behavior weight loss strategies (e.g., diet and exercise) for people with severe mental illnesses, research suggests such strategies may be muted for African Americans. Hence, the CAB and Community Coalition will specifically consider adaptations to cognitive behavior weight loss strategies for peers in their community. Diet and exercise programs are especially difficult in low income communities marked by food and activity deserts. The CAB and Community Coalition will consider this challenge in their adaptation. Earlier CBPR funded by NIMHD and PCORI has shown healthcare outcomes for people of color are enhanced when complemented by peer navigators, specially trained service providers from the same ethnic background with a history of similar behavioral health challenges. Peer navigators will help program participants achieve diet and exercise goals in these communities. This study represents a partnership between Heartland Health Outreach (HHO), and the NIMH-funded Center on Adherence and Self-Determination at the Illinois Institute of Technology. The ultimate, randomized controlled trial will have three conditions (depending ultimately on CBPR feedback): treatment as usual (TAU which is integrated care), TAU plus behavioral weight loss intervention, or TAU, the weight loss intervention, with peer navigators. Impact will be assessed baseline, 6, 12, and 18 months examining weight change, health behavior, physical and mental health, recovery, and quality of life. Findings will advance knowledge and services to reduce racial disparities in obesity and comorbid health conditions for African Americans with severe mental illnesses.
Health and health care are worse among people of color with severe mental illnesses, especially in areas of obesity and nutrition. Doing community-based participatory research (CBPR) with a consumer advisory board (CAB), we will conduct mixed methods research with African Americans with severe mental illness to better understand the nature of the problem and possible solutions.