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Older adult couple walking outside

Updated: March 19, 2021

Two unusual partners are teaming up to help older adults who have trouble walking get back “on the move.” The University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Therapy at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) and the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business were selected for a $249,880 funding award through the Eugene Washington PCORI Engagement Awards program, an initiative of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).

Dr. Jennifer Brach, professor, Physical Therapy, will lead the 24-month project which aims to increase the number of sites offering her “On the Move” (OTM) initiative, a group exercise program proven to improve mobility in older adults. The overall goal is to increase the participation of older adults among community-based organizations in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Dr. Vanitha Swaminathan, director, Center for Branding and Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing, Katz School of Business, will develop and implement a strategic marketing plan to brand and market the OTM program across the region. This includes finding optimal ways to enhance brand awareness and implementing the program through various methods such as social media, print or in-person communications, and building an alternative hybrid/virtual OTM instructor training program.

“Walking difficulty is a common and costly problem affecting almost half of all community-dwelling older adults,” states Brach. “With input from key stakeholders, like older adults themselves, we created the OTM program through a rigorous clinical trial, also funded by PCORI. After participating in OTM, older adults were able to walk farther and faster than those in traditional programs.”

Throughout this promotional process, the team will also engage key stakeholders including community-dwelling older adults, OTM instructors, community-based organizations like senior community centers and YMCAs, and representatives from relevant advocacy organizations such as the National Council on Aging. Stakeholder advisory boards will meet quarterly to provide authentic contributions to the dissemination of OTM. The team will then measure awareness and use of the exercise program across the area. 

“We are thrilled to be working with Dr. Brach and the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences on the OTM program,” says Swaminathan. “An important goal of the Center for Branding is to use the principles of branding and marketing to advance initiatives which help make the world a better place. We will draw upon our research on the effectiveness of brand-building to help increase the appeal of the OTM program and use various marketing activations to enhance engagement of its key target audience – older adults.”

Brach explains the importance of this collaboration, “I am excited to have this opportunity to partner with Dr. Swaminathan and her team to disseminate OTM. They view the challenge of dissemination through a different lens which brings an extremely valuable perspective to the project.”

The “On the Move” project is part of a portfolio of projects that PCORI has funded to help develop a community of patients and other stakeholders equipped to participate as partners in comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) and disseminate PCORI-funded study results. Through the Engagement Award Program, PCORI is creating an expansive network of individuals, communities and organizations interested in and able to participate in, share and use patient-centered CER.

The University of Pittsburgh’s project and the other projects approved for funding by the PCORI Engagement Award Program were selected through a highly competitive review process in which applications were assessed for their ability to meet PCORI’s engagement goals and objectives, as well as program criteria.

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

To learn more about PCORI and this project, please click here.