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Grantee Profile | PEARLS

AARP Foundation, through its Evidence Based Solutions grant competition, has funded University of Washington Health Promotion Research Center to increase their level of evidence and simultaneously work to refine their program model for future scalability.

AARP Foundation Grant Program

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“While we know that the program is effective at treating late-life depression, this AARP Foundation-funded project will allow us to better understand the effect of PEARLS on other important outcomes, including health services utilization, transition to nursing homes, and social isolation. Knowing more about these financial and social impacts is key for helping to scale and sustain PEARLS by opening the door for new partnerships, funders, providers, and communities.”

—Lesley Steinman, Research Scientist at UW Health Promotion Research Center

Project Description

The University of Washington’s Health Promotion Research Center will conduct two evaluations to expand the evidence-base for the Program to Encourage Active, Rewarding Lives (PEARLS). The goal of the evaluation is to understand PEARLS’ impact on objective and subjective measures of social isolation, and on economic factors such as health services utilization/costs and transitions to nursing homes. The evaluation will also consider how PEARLS  works:

  • In various organizations and settings
  • In community-based organizations around the country
  • With different staffing models and population mixes
  • To impact person-centered outcomes such as self-efficacy and quality of life

Additionally, the project will provide key evidence for expanding PEARLS in existing markets and into other markets such as integrated health care for greater financial and social impact.

AARP Foundation Grant Program

AARP Foundation

Project Highlights

Quality Indicators: Current healthcare quality improvement measures such as the Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) encourage regular depression screening, referral, and treatment for better outcomes. PEARLS’ strong evidence base can assist health systems and insurers in meeting the indicators for improvement in depressive symptoms five to seven months post-screening.

Pilot Study: Prior to completing their nationwide social isolation evaluation, the UW Health Promotion Research Center will implement a pilot with 20 PEARLS participants to test their demographic and social isolation instruments. The pilot will also allow for refinement of recruitment strategies and data collection methodology.

AARP Foundation Grants Program

AARP Foundation

Evidence Base

Independent Evaluation: The effectiveness of PEARLS for older adults living in the community was tested through a randomized control trial (RCT) from 1999 to 2003 (Ciechanowski, 2004, JAMA). The RCT found that individuals treated with PEARLS were three times as likely to experience a reduction in their depressive symptoms as those not treated with PEARLS.

National Registries: PEARLS is recognized in several national registries of evidence-based programs for older adult health promotion, including the Substance Abuse Mental Health and Services Administration’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Innovations Exchange, and the Administration on Community Living’s Title III D Highest Tier for Aging and Disability Evidence-Based Programs and Practices.

CDC Prevention Research Center: The Health Promotion Research Center (HPRC) is one of three original Prevention Research Centers funded by the CDC in 1986. Based at the University of Washington School of Public Health, the HPRC is part of a network of academic-community partnerships around the country who are translating community-based research results into policy and practice.   


AARP Foundation Grant Program


“It gave me a different way to look at things in my life...I learned to break big problems into small tasks that I could tackle one at a time in baby steps.”

—PEARLS Participant

Grantee Profiles

We collaborate with grantee and partner organizations to identify evidence-based interventions that make transformational impact possible and address our strategic objectives.