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Hammett PJ, Eliacin J, Makris UE, Allen KD, Kerns RD, Heapy A, Goldsmith ES, Meis LA, Taylor BC, Saenger M, Cross LJS, Do T, Branson M, Burgess DJ. An Analysis of the Role of Mental Health in a Randomized Trial of a Walking Intervention for Black Veterans With Chronic Pain. The journal of pain. 2023 Jan 1; 24(1):55-67.
Black patients and those with co-occurring mental health disorders are disproportionately affected by chronic pain, but few interventions target these populations. This is a secondary analysis of a randomized trial of a walking-focused proactive counseling intervention for Black Veterans with chronic musculoskeletal pain (ACTION). The primary aim was to examine intervention effectiveness among Veterans with an electronic health record-documented mental health diagnosis [depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, substance use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder or serious mental illness (n = 205)] and those without a diagnosis (n = 175). About 380 Black Veterans receiving care at the Atlanta VA Health Care System were enrolled from 2016 to 2019 and randomized to the intervention or usual care (UC) (1:1). The intervention featured 6 telephone coaching sessions over 8-14 weeks to encourage walking. Participants with a mental health disorder were more likely to complete all counseling sessions (56% vs 38%) and reported improvements in global perceptions of pain and pain intensity/interference (secondary outcomes) at 3-months vs UC. Among participants without a mental health disorder, the intervention was associated with an improvement in pain-related disability at 6-months (primary outcome). Black chronic pain patients with co-occurring mental health disorders may require more intensive treatment to affect improvement in pain-related disability. PERSPECTIVE: This study examines the effectiveness of a walking intervention for chronic pain among Black Veterans with a mental health disorder. These patients were more engaged with the intervention than those without a mental health disorder. However, they did not experience reductions in pain-related disability, suggesting more intensive treatment is needed.