BOSTON, MA – Partners HealthCare today announced that its founding hospitals, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), have been awarded nearly $24 million from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study the effectiveness of behavior modification strategies to improve the quality of life of targeted at-risk populations who suffer from respiratory-related conditions. The funding awards and the initiatives they will support were crafted in partnership with the patients that will ultimately benefit.
The five-year MGH study will develop strategies to reduce the high rate of smoking among patients diagnosed with severe mental illness (SMI).  The five-year BWH study will seek to identify alternative strategies to prevent asthma attacks among disproportionately-impacted African American and Hispanic/Latino populations.

“We are fortunate to have so many dedicated leaders within the Partners system who are determined to help those patients with severe mental illnesses. These patients suffer enough without the added burden of debilitating conditions directly connected with their tobacco use, which is two to three times higher than the national average,” said Anne Klibanski, MD, Chief Academic Officer at Partners HealthCare. “Likewise, while asthma affects 25 million Americans each year, the minority community is impacted especially hard.  Thanks to the PCORI awards, Partners researchers will be able to develop strategies that not only improve the quality of life for asthma sufferers but also reduce the emergency room visits and hospitalizations that account for 50 percent of asthma-related healthcare costs.”

Dr. Eden Evins, Director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at MGH, will oversee the $10 million study to develop an effective smoking cessation strategy to assist people quit smoking who have also been diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, major depression or some other disabling mental condition.

Studies show that people with SMI are dying from heart disease and other smoking-related illnesses at alarming rates, with life expectancy rates 28 years shorter than others, largely due to the fact that 53 percent of SMI sufferers also use tobacco.  This is far higher than the 18 percent of those in the general population who smoke.  Primary care physicians, community health workers and more than 1,100 patients from 50 Boston area community health clinics will participate in the study.

Additionally, about 1,200 randomly chosen African-American and Hispanic/Latino asthma patients and their physicians are expected to take part in a $13.8 million study headed by Dr. Elliot Israel and his team from BWH that will determine whether a patient-centered approach to use certain types of asthma inhalers can reduce asthma attacks. 

Smaller controlled studies have shown that one way to effectively prevent asthma attacks is by using an inhaled corticosteroid (controller) medication for symptoms in addition to reliever inhalers that asthma patients use to ease symptoms such as wheezing or being out of breath. The study will measure the effectiveness of the patient-centered strategy to overcome the reluctance of asthma patients to use the supplemental inhaled corticosteroid each day, either because they feel well enough without it or because they worry about overusing a medication they don’t feel is necessary.

PCORI is an independent, nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers, and clinicians with the evidence-based information needed to make better-informed healthcare decisions. 

The MGH and BWH awards have been approved pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.