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​Older adults experience depression and cardiovascular disease at higher rates than younger people; these problems are especially prevalent among African American and Latino elderly.   Scientists have observed that there is an association between heart disease and depression, although it is not clear how or why this association occurs.   What is known is that depressed people have more heart disease and people with heart disease are more likely to be depressed.  This association might be due to various problems such as decreased physical activity, poor dietary habits, medication non-adherence, or a direct impact on inflammatory systems.

The BRIGHTEN-Heart study is the first-ever evaluation of two approaches to simultaneously target both depression and metabolic syndrome.  Metabolic syndrome is a group of problems that when combined represent a major risk factor for the development of heart disease.  The metabolic syndrome includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, overweight and obesity, increased waist circumference. 

The study will determine if either of these two approaches improves depression and lowers the risk of heart problems in older African Americans and Latinos.​
 

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​​BRIGHTEN-Heart is open to participants 65 years of age or over, who are overweight, and have symptoms of either depression or anxiety, and receive their primary medical care from a participating clinic.  Most clinics in the project are Community Health Centers, Federally Qualified Health Clinics, or are part of the Cook County Bureau of Health Services. Participants will be followed for about one year.​
 

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​People who receive Generations services will receive a free membership in Rush’s health and wellness program serving older adults.  Generations provides free health classes, support programs for healthy lifestyles, assistance with obtaining needed social services, and other resources that can help improve conditions such as depression and the metabolic syndrome.

People who receive the Virtual team services will have a comprehensive evaluation by a Social Worker Care Coordinator, and then a case review by an on-line team of health professionals.  The recommendations of this virtual inter-professional team will be shared with the participant, and the Care Coordinator will then work with the participant to implement the care plan to address depression symptoms and the metabolic syndrome.
 

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​In order to compare the two interventions fairly, participants are randomly assigned to one intervention or the​​ other.  A computer picks this at random, and neither the participant nor a member of the study can select which treatment the person receives.  Randomization is entirely by chance, like the flip of a coin or the roll of dice.