Core Research Project

Clinical-community linkages PT-REFER graphicPT-REFER (Physical Therapists Recommending EnhanceFitness to Expand Reach)

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HPRC Core Research Project 2014-2019

The University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center (HPRC) and the national YMCA (Y-USA) are conducting a five-year research project, funded by the CDC. The goal of the project is to develop and test an intervention to increase recommendations by physical therapists to an accessible and effective group physical activity program offered at the YMCA.

Background and Players

  • HPRC’s mission is to partner with communities to conduct prevention research promoting healthy aging that is incorporated into community practice.
  • Y-USA is the national office of the YMCA. Local YMCA branches offer numerous programs for their communities, including physical activity programs.
  • EnhanceFitness, owned and licensed by Sound Generations (formerly known as Senior Services), is an evidence-based group exercise program targeted specifically to older adults at all levels of fitness. EnhanceFitness classes are offered at YMCAs and other community-based settings across the country.
  • Physical Therapy Clinics: Because of the personal connection and high levels of trust between physical therapists and their clients, we seek to collaborate with physical therapists to connect older adults with community-based physical activity programs.
  • Core research team:
    • Miruna Petrescu-Prahova, PhD, Principal Investigator
    • Marlana Kohn, MPH, Research Scientist and Research Project Manager. For general project information:
    • Lesley Steinman, MSW, MPH, Research Scientist
    • Sarah Fishleder, MA, MPH, CPH, Graduate Research Assistant

PT_REFER core research projectResearch Approach

Phase 1: Gather Information (2014-2015)

Learn how physical therapists exchange information with their patients about ongoing physical activity and community resources through clinical observation and interviews with physical therapists.

Learn how YMCAs engage with healthcare providers in their community, including physical therapists, through interviews with YMCA staff.

Phase 2: Design the System (2015)

Work with the YMCA and physical therapy clinics to create a system for engaging physical therapists to recommend EnhanceFitness at the YMCA to their older adult patients when appropriate.

Phase 3: Test the System (2016-2018)

In the final step, we will conduct a randomized controlled trial where one group of YMCAs use the system to engage PTs, and another group of YMCAs conduct business as usual. We will compare the results between groups to determine if the system is effective, feasible, and acceptable to older adults, PTs, and YMCA staff.

Current Partners

  • HPRC
  • Y-USA
  • Sound Generations
  • Project Advisory Group–assists the research team with strategic planning, study design, and troubleshooting when issues arise. Project Advisory Group members represent many important categories of stakeholders, including: local, state, and national YMCA operations; EnhanceFitness operations; physical therapy research and practice; and evidence-based programs.

Research citations

Ackermann et al., 2008 (PDF)
Nguyen et al., 2007 (PDF)
Wallace et al., 1998 (PDF)
Belza et al., 2006 (PDF)
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 2013 (PDF)
Rikli & Jones, 1999 (PDF)