The Empowerment Project:
Health Partnerships for Successful Aging with SCI
The Empowerment Project is a new program within the University of Washington Department of Rehabilitation Medicine designed to foster healthy aging after SCI and reduce SCI survivors' vulnerability to medical problems that can decrease their independence and quality of life as they get older. Funded through a three-year Quality of Life grant award from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, the project is directed by Maria Regina Reyes, MD, associate professor and medical director of the UW Medicine SCI Rehabilitation Program.
The Empowerment Project is tackling the challenge of healthy aging with SCI by creating and pioneering two new clinical and educational programs:
- Personalized spinal cord injury health summaries and care guides
Provided to inpatient and outpatient SCI survivors and their health care providers, these portable health documents will outline individualized lifetime health surveillance and maintenance needs, and provide guidance on appropriate SCI-related disease evaluation and management. The educational products developed for these care guides will be made publicly available to allow widespread adaptation and use.
- Online peer-led self-management course
This course will build on existing self-management models but will be targeted to the unique health care needs of individuals with SCI. The course will be led by trained volunteers with SCI.
The goal of the Empowerment Project is to improve the health and quality of life of individuals with SCI by:
Improving access to, and satisfaction with knowledgeable primary care providers throughout the life span.
Minimizing unnecessary tests and treatment, including re-hospitalization and emergency room visits, thereby decreasing healthcare costs.
Developing a large community of peer mentor educators who will foster effective and proactive health self-management, in collaboration with the health care team.
Setting a new standard for SCI care transition planning between inpatient rehabilitation and primary care providers.
Promoting patient safety and patient-centered care by adapting the educational resources and approach to effectively teach and learn extensive amounts of information.