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CCTSI’s Boot Camp Translation cuts medical jargon, improves community health

By Wendy S. Meyer

Jack Westfall, MD
Jack Westfall, MD

Medical guidelines use language and concepts that are not always understood by patients, making it difficult for them to choose the best treatment.

A new study by University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus researchers confirms the success of a new patient-engagement method called Boot Camp Translation, which turns complex medical screening guidelines into locally relevant health messages. Multiple studies show that use of the process has led to improved cancer testing, asthma management and hypertension control.
The article appears in the April issue of the journal Health Affairs, the nation’s leading journal of health policy thought and research, and was authored by Jack Westfall, MD, director of the High Plains Research Network at the CU School of Medicine and colleagues from the Colorado Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI).

“Our work shows that all research stages may benefit from patient engagement and the translation of complex medical jargon into locally relevant language,” says Jack Westfall, MD. “What if patients were involved in the creation of evidence-based guidelines from the beginning? The final recommendations would be more patient-centered and ultimately more effective.”
Boot Camp Translation is a robust eight-month program in which patients and community members become citizen experts on a clinical topic that they have previously designated as a priority. In conference calls and in-person meetings, the community and participating research group learn together about the topic, craft messages with information they want family and neighbors to know, and design dissemination methods to get health messages and materials into the community. The final messages are evidence-based and meaningful at the local level.
The High Plains Research Network’s Community Advisory Council, made up of farmers, teachers and other community members in eastern Colorado, identified a lack of community knowledge about colon cancer and developed the Boot Camp Translation process in 2005. The CCTSI tested the Boot Camp Translation process on multiple topics in communities throughout the United States from 2012 to 2015.
Under the direction of Dr. Don Nease, Community Engagement Director, the CCTSI used the process more than 25 times, addressing the topics of cancer prevention, hypertension, asthma, diabetes and mental health. Multiple studies show that the use of the process has led to improvement in cancer testing, asthma management and hypertension control.
The paper, “Reinventing the Wheel of Medical Evidence: How the Boot Camp Translation Process is Making Gains” provides a brief history of the process and describes its use to translate and disseminate evidence-based medical guidelines. The process has successfully engaged in long-term research projects with patients in rural, urban, and African American and Latino communities in Colorado, Iowa, Oregon, North Carolina and Wisconsin.
With the evidence of Bootcamp Translation’s success, policymakers can support deeper patient engagement throughout the entire medical research enterprise. The result is that the national investment in medical discovery will benefit the communities, practices and patients who pay for that investment.
“We want to make sure that the national investment that America is making in our science comes back to benefit the individuals who are fueling that investment with their tax dollars. Bootcamp Translation is doing just that for folks in Denver’s Five Points, to Alamosa, to Sterling, Colorado and across the nation.” 

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