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The Empowerment Project:
Health Partnerships for Successful Aging with SCI

The Empowerment Project was a program within the University of Washington Department of Rehabilitation Medicine designed to foster healthy aging and quality of life after SCI. Funded through a three-year Creating Opportunity and Independence Portfolio Sustainable Impact Project grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, the project was directed by Maria Regina Reyes, MD, associate professor in the UW Department of Rehabilitation Medicine.

The Empowerment Project worked to tackle the challenge of healthy aging with SCI by creating and pioneering two new clinical and educational programs:

  1. Personalized spinal cord injury health summaries and care guides
    Portable health care documents will outline individualized lifetime health surveillance and maintenance needs after discharge from inpatient rehabilitation, and provide guidance on appropriate SCI-related disease evaluation and management. A large variety of written and video health promotion guides addressing the more common medical conditions, needs and skills unique to SCI were developed. These educational products were developed based on needs identified from focus groups and surveys of consumers and providers in the Pacific Northwest. The products will be made publicly available as they are developed to allow widespread adaptation and use.
    • Health Guides: 23 printable guides on important SCI health topics
    • Videos: 30 short videos showing wheelchair skills, improving hand function, respiratory and leg-wrapping techniques, and profiling individuals aging with an SCI.
  2. Online peer-led self-management course
    This course, currently in development, builds on existing self-management models but will be targeted to the unique health care needs and concerns of individuals with SCI. This 8-week course will be led by trained volunteers with SCI, and run as an online course..

The overarching goal of the Empowerment Project was to improve the health and quality of life of individuals with SCI by: