NEWS | July 20, 2012

UC Davis researcher seeks to improve the self-care skills of patients with depression and diabetes


With a $700,000 grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), a UC Davis researcher will determine if primary-care physicians can use specific interviewing techniques to improve the self-care skills of patients with depression and diabetes.

The combination of depression and diabetes is extremely common, affecting millions of Americans. Optimal treatment of both illnesses can be complex for patients, involving multiple medications, a special diet, regular exercise, and blood-sugar and symptom monitoring.

Dr. Jerant © UC Regents
Anthony Jerant

"These are serious diseases that require significant attention, yet patients often struggle to do what it takes to advance their health and quality of life," said Anthony Jerant, professor of family and community medicine and principal investigator on the grant. "We want to see if physicians can use a standardized communication intervention to help improve their patients' behaviors and symptoms."

Jerant, a family physician with a strong interest in better care for people with chronic illnesses, will use the funding to determine the effects of Self-Efficacy Enhancing Interviewing Techniques -- or SEE IT -- on depression and diabetes symptom severity and quality of care. Developed by Jerant and his colleagues, the intervention involves teaching primary-care physicians to interact in ways that boost patients' confidence for doing what is needed to manage their conditions.

A pilot study led by Jerant demonstrated that physicians-in-training could easily and effectively incorporate SEE IT in primary-care settings. The newly funded study will determine if fully trained primary-care physicians will adopt the techniques.

"In addition to delivering medical care, primary-care office visits provide powerful teaching opportunities," Jerant said. "We want to know if SEE IT can be a valuable tool for physicians in increasing their patients' success with tough illnesses."

The NIMH grant (award number R34MH095893) supports Jerant's work for two years. His UC Davis collaborators on the project are Richard Kravitz, professor of internal medicine, and Peter Franks, professor of family and community medicine.

The UC Davis Department of Family and Community Medicine provides comprehensive, compassionate and personal care for patients within the context of family and community. The team integrates a humanistic approach to treating the "whole person" with evidence-based care. Special areas of research are health-behavior change, physician-patient communication, chronic-illness care, women's health issues, and reducing racial and ethnic health disparities. For more information, visit