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CDA 19-035 – HSR&D Study

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CDA 19-035
Telehealth Treatment of Veterans with Alcohol Misuse at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease
Daniel Blalock PhD
Durham, NC
Funding Period: May 2021 - April 2026


Background: Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the most common cause of death in Veterans. CVD-related deaths are over twice as likely in patients with comorbid alcohol misuse, due in part to alcohol misuse directly exacerbating several modifiable factors that lead to CVD. No interventions exist targeting both these comorbidities, and current VA/DoD treatment guidelines for comorbid alcohol misuse in primary care are ineffective. Because alcohol misuse is often a recurrent problem, and the dominant driver of treatment recommendations, timely treatment of these Veterans’ CVD risk in conjunction with alcohol misuse treatment in may be critical for developing clinical traction with CVD risk. Dr. Blalock seeks to refine a telehealth intervention and acquire necessary training throughout this CDA-2 proposal to begin his career as an independent VA health services researcher who seeks to improve the effectiveness and reach of behavioral health treatments for Veterans with comorbid behavioral health problems. Significance/Impact: 9-32% of the entire Veteran population has comorbid alcohol misuse and modifiable elevated CVD risk. This high-risk population is entirely preventable, but is undertreated and understudied. The proposed CDA research would be the first to directly target this high-risk population. This research is highly relevant to Veteran health, VHA priorities, and HSR&D priorities because the combined intervention targets and telehealth approaches address critical gaps in treatment timeliness and access. Specific Aims: Aim 1 –Characterize a national cohort of Veterans with alcohol misuse and modifiable CVD risk, their alcohol services utilization, and clinical outcomes. Aim 2 – Qualitatively assess barriers to treatment for Veterans with alcohol misuse and CVD risk across multiple stakeholders. Aim 3 – Use a successive cohort design to iteratively develop an intervention based on patient feedback. Aim 4 – Test the acceptability and feasibility of an intervention to reduce alcohol misuse and CVD risk in Veterans. Innovation: This application is highly innovative in its attempt to address for the first time: 1) perceptions of barriers to treatment in this population, 2) the utility of a combined intervention for alcohol misuse and CVD risk, 3) multimorbid patient preferences for timing of treatments for multiple different targets, and 4) the sustainability of health behavior habits in VA formed by an intervention using “implementation intentions.” Methodology: Aim 1 will use electronic health records to examine the status of key health criteria and services utilization among Veterans with alcohol misuse, both with and without comorbid CVD risk. Aim 2 will use qualitative interviews of both Veterans with comorbid alcohol misuse and elevated modifiable CVD risk, their providers across different settings, and systems-level stakeholders to assess current treatment barriers. Aim 3 will employ a successive cohort design to iteratively test the proposed intervention with rapid and early feedback from multiple Veteran cohorts. Aim 4 will test a refined intervention based on feedback from Aims 2 and 3 to determine the acceptability to Veteran patients, as well as the feasibility of recruitment, randomization, and intervention. Next Steps/Implementation: Beginning in Aim 1, a systems-level advisory board will be convened semi- annually with the goal of eliciting feedback throughout intervention development to aid implementation. By the end of the 3rd year of the CDA-2, an IIR application will be submitted to fund a randomized comparative effectiveness trial of the Aim 3 intervention. Results will also be presented to local Veterans engagement panels associated with “VetREP.” Additional feedback from OCC and OMHSP operations partners, and implementation considerations gleaned from utilization patterns and care settings in Aim 4, will allow rapid development of a post-IIR implementation plan. Additional training in cost effectiveness and implementation science will also give Dr. Blalock the skills to follow through with additional research and implementation.

NIH Reporter Project Information:


Journal Articles

  1. Manwaring JL, Blalock DV, Duffy A, Le Grange D, Mehler PS, Riddle M, Rienecke RD. An examination of adults with atypical anorexia nervosa at admission to treatment at higher levels of care: An attempt to increase diagnostic clarity. The International Journal of Eating Disorders. 2024 Jan 2.
  2. Rienecke RD, Blalock DV, Mills HD, Duffy A, Manwaring J, Le Grange D, Mehler PS, McClanahan S, Bauschka M, Johnson C. An open trial for adults in a residential program for binge eating spectrum disorders. Eating disorders. 2023 Dec 4; 1-17.
  3. Hung A, Wong ES, Dennis PA, Stechuchak KM, Blalock DV, Smith VA, Hoerster K, Vimalananda VG, Raffa SD, Maciejewski ML. Real World Use of Anti-Obesity Medications and Weight Change in Veterans. Journal of general internal medicine. 2023 Nov 14.
  4. Rienecke RD, Mehler PS, Duffy A, Le Grange D, Peterson CB, Blalock DV. Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire: Norms for Adults in Higher Levels of Care. Assessment. 2023 Nov 5; 10731911231208386.
  5. Drake C, Alfaro JM, Blalock DV, Ito K, Batch BC, Bosworth HB, Berkowitz SA, Zullig LL. Association of Unmet Social Needs With Metformin Use Among Patients With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Care. 2023 Nov 1; 46(11):2044-2049.
  6. Maciejewski ML, Greene L, Grubber JM, Blalock DV, Jacobs J, Rao M, Zulman DM, Smith VA. Association between patient-reported social and behavioral risks and health care costs in high-risk Veterans health administration patients. Health services research. 2024 Feb 1; 59(1):e14243.
  7. Jenkins PE, Blalock DV, Duffy A, Mehler PS, Rienecke RD. Empirical Investigation of Different Factor Structures for the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire in Adult Women With Anorexia Nervosa. Assessment. 2023 Sep 14; 10731911231198207.
  8. Wright CE, Sheeran P, Voils CI, Blalock DV. A review of implementation intentions as a tool to benefit high-need patients and healthcare systems: U.S. veterans affairs as an exemplar. Patient education and counseling. 2023 Nov 1; 116:107937.
  9. Wilson SM, Blalock DV, Young JR, Griffin SC, Hertzberg JS, Calhoun PS, Beckham JC. Mobile health contingency management for smoking cessation among veterans experiencing homelessness: A comparative effectiveness trial. Preventive medicine reports. 2023 Oct 1; 35:102311.
  10. Blalock DV, Pura JA, Stechuchak KM, Dennis PA, Maciejewski ML, Smith VA, Hung A, Hoerster KD, Wong ES. BMI Trends for Veterans Up to 10 Years After VA Enrollment Following Military Discharge. Journal of general internal medicine. 2023 May 1; 38(6):1423-1430.
  11. Goldstein K, Perry KR, Lewinski A, Walsh CW, Shepherd-Banigan M, Bosworth HB, Weidenbacher HJ, Blalock D, Zullig LL. How can equitable video visit access be delivered in primary care? A qualitative study among rural primary care teams and patients. BMJ (Clinical research ed.). 2022 Aug 5; 12:. doi:10.1136/ bmjopen-2022-062261.
  12. Rushton S, Lewinski AA, Hwang S, Zullig LL, Ball Ricks KA, Ramos K, Gordon A, Ear B, Ballengee LA, Brahmajothi MV, Moore T, Blalock DV, Williams JW, Cantrell SE, Gierisch JM, Goldstein KM. Barriers and facilitators to the implementation and adoption of improvement coaching: A qualitative evidence synthesis. Journal of Clinical Nursing. 2023 Jan 1; 32(1-2):3-30.
  13. Blalock DV, Berlin SA, Young JR, Blakey SM, Calhoun PS, Dedert EA. Effects of Alcohol Reduction Interventions on Blood Pressure. Current Hypertension Reports. 2022 Apr 1; 24(4):75-85.
  14. Blalock DV, Grubber J, Smith VA, Zulman DM, Weidenbacher HJ, Greene L, Dedert EA, Maciejewski ML. The association of alcohol use with all-cause and cardiovascular disease-related hospitalizations or death in older, high-risk Veterans. Alcoholism, clinical and experimental research. 2021 Jun 1; 45(6):1215-1224.
  15. Kwan YH, Weng SD, Loh DHF, Phang JK, Oo LJY, Blalock DV, Chew EH, Yap KZ, Tan CYK, Yoon S, Fong W, Østbye T, Low LL, Bosworth HB, Thumboo J. Measurement Properties of Existing Patient-Reported Outcome Measures on Medication Adherence: Systematic Review. Journal of medical Internet research. 2020 Oct 9; 22(10):e19179.

DRA: Cardiovascular Disease, Substance Use Disorders, Health Systems
DRE: Technology Development and Assessment, Prevention, TRL - Development
Keywords: Career Development
MeSH Terms: None at this time.

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