Background Many of the new atypical antipsychotic medications have been associated with significant weight gain and drug-induced obesity, and obesity-related health complications such as cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. Relatively little is known about strategies to improve health behavior in people with mental disorders. In particular, little is known about how general health behavior change approaches might be modified to be appropriate and effective within the context of recent-onset schizophrenia.
Objective Research and design a health behavior program for recent-onset schizophrenia patients that incorporates relaxation/stress management skills, nutrition training, and an exercise regimen.
Methods Extensively review the literature and collect manuals, protocols, and outcome measures of exiting programs. Meet with health care professionals to obtain practical advice from front-line health care providers. Lead a focus group with schizophrenia patients for additional input regarding curriculum development.
Results Thirteen existing programs were contacted, and we received four program manuals (specifically designed for psychiatric patients) to review. We met with six professionals from various health care specialties who provided us with helpful ideas and further contacts. We held two focus groups with recent-onset schizophrenia patients and obtained feedback from 10 patients. Actual curriculum content is currently in development.
Conclusions Health behavior interventions—like the one developed from this research experience—that are designed to accommodate the cognitive, social, and motivational impairments inherent in schizophrenia have the best chance of success. Limitations of this project include limited funding for research and lack of empirically validated outcome measures to investigate program effects.
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