Improving the health and health behaviors of women aging with physical disabilities: A peer-led health promotion program.

OBJECTIVE: To examine the efficacy of a health promotion program for women aging with physical disabilities.

METHOD: A sample of 137 middle-aged and older women with physical disabilities was randomly assigned to either an 8-week health promotion program or to a wait-list control group. Both groups completed questionnaires before, immediately after, and 3 months after the intervention.

RESULTS: Relative to women in the control group, women in the health-promotion program demonstrated improvements in health behaviors, most of which were maintained at follow-up. The intervention group showed some improvements on measures of physical health, but there was little evidence of improvement in psychological health outcomes. Testing our theoretical model, self-efficacy was supported as a mediator of the effect of the intervention on health behaviors, and health behaviors combined with self-efficacy were supported as mediators of the effect of the intervention on physical health outcomes. Contrary to our hypotheses, our measures of social support and social connectedness were not affected by the intervention.

CONCLUSIONS: A brief, peer-led, group health promotion program resulted in improved scores on measures of self-efficacy, increased health behavior, and physical health. Self-efficacy, which was supported as a mediator in the effect of the intervention on behaviors and health outcomes, should remain an important focus of future interventions with this population.