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Measures of Patient Activation and Social Support in a Peer-Led Support Network for Women With Cardiovascular Disease

Witt, Dawn PhD, MPH; Benson, Gretchen BA; Campbell, Susan MPH; Sillah, Arthur MPH; Berra, Kathy MSN, NP

Journal of Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation and Prevention: November/December 2016 - Volume 36 - Issue 6 - p 430–437
doi: 10.1097/HCR.0000000000000196
Cardiac Rehabilitation

PURPOSE: Social support has been associated with beneficial effects on many disease states and overall health and well-being. However, there is limited research exploring the impact of peer-led support models among women living with coronary heart disease. This study describes the structure of peer-led support groups offered by WomenHeart (WH): The National Coalition for Women Living with Heart Disease, and assesses WH participants' quality of life and social, emotional, and physical health.

METHODS: Participants were recruited from 50 WH groups. A 70-item online survey was administered, and the main analytic sample included 157 women. Multivariate logistic regression was used to examine the association between patient activation levels (lower activation levels: 1, 2 vs higher activation levels: 3, 4) and social support scores (range: lowest 8 to highest 34), adjusting for age.

RESULTS: High levels of social support, patient activation, physical activity, and low levels of stress, anxiety, and depression were reported. Those who were at or above the median for the social support measures (indicating high levels of social support) had greater odds of high levels of patient activation (level 3 or 4) than individuals reporting low levels of social support (OR = 2.23; 95% CI, 1.04-4.76; P = .012).

CONCLUSIONS: Women who regularly attended a support group by a trained peer leader were highly engaged in their health care and had low levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. These findings lend credibility to the value of the peer support model and could potentially be replicated in other disease states to enhance patient care.

This article describes the structure of the WomenHeart (WH) peer-led support groups and assesses participants' quality of life and social, emotional, and physical health. An online survey was administered to 50 WH groups. Participants reported low levels of stress, anxiety, and depression and high levels of social support and patient activation.

Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Dr Witt and Ms Benson); WomenHeart, Washington, District of Columbia (Ms Campbell); Allina Health, Minneapolis, Minnesota (Mr Sillah); and The LifeCare Company, Menlo Park, California (Ms Berra).

Correspondence: Dawn Witt, PhD, MPH, Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, 920 E 28th St, Ste 100, Minneapolis, MN 55407 (

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

Copyright © 2016 Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. All rights reserved.