An interdisciplinary group of faculty members have created Change That Matters, a 10-modular curriculum to teach physicians and other healthcare providers how to effectively support patients with health behavior change (such as smoking cessation, healthy eating, and physical activity) and behavioral health (such as depression, stress, and managing chronic pain) topics.

Faculty who created the curriculum include Department of Family Medicine and Community Health (DFMCH) faculty and co-leads Stephanie Hooker, PhD, MPH, and Michelle Sherman, PhD, ABPP, along with Andrew Slattengren, DO (DFMCH); Katie Loth, PhD, MPH (DFMCH and the School of Public Health); Jean Moon, PharmD (DFMCH & Pharmacy); Kacey Justesen, MD (DFMCH); and Anne Doering, MD (DFMCH).

How the new curriculum came to be

When asked what led to the creation of the Change That Matters curriculum, Dr. Hooker said, "Talking with patients about making behavioral changes such as quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, or managing depression is difficult. There was a need for a comprehensive set of resources to help physicians and other healthcare providers have those conversations."

Change That Matters curriculum logo

Modifiable health behaviors contribute to 40 percent of the variance in health outcomes—and these are behaviors patients can make positive changes in. In addition, the curriculum's creators had a keen awareness of the advantages of the primary care setting. It is a perfect venue in which to address these topics due to the long-term relationships, holistic and interdisciplinary approach to care, and the trust that often builds between primary care physicians and patients.

The interdisciplinary team, based in the North Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program, desired to create a comprehensive curriculum. Rather than just creating resources for patients, Change that Matters involves three components for each module, including:

  • Interactive patient handouts (English & Spanish)
  • Electronic health record (EPIC) templates for (1) use in visit to guide assessment and goal setting and (2) After Visit Summary (AVS)
  • Didactic PowerPoint slide set with context about the topic, overview of research-based interventions, and review of the materials for that module

"We were fortunate to receive two grants to support the curriculum, said Dr. Sherman. "One was from the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center Seed Grant and one was from the National Center for Integrated Behavioral Health (NCIBH). We had been developing the curriculum over approximately three years."

A positive response from physicians and patients

Change That Matters is a 10-module curriculum. The entire curriculum is available for free on the website (, so providers can download and immediately use any resources they desire.

Since the curriculum's launch, patients, physicians, and colleagues from across the country have responded very positively. The patient brochures are visually appealing, interactive, and empowering. They are a way for a physician to introduce the topic to the patient in an engaging way while reinforcing recommendations, setting meaningful goals, and encouraging tracking (such as logging physical activity). One behavioral health professional from another family medicine residency program commented that Change That Matters is "the most useful resource I've seen in my 12 years in this role."

"Feedback from our mixed methods evaluation (with physicians, patients, and experts) reflect appreciation for how the materials offer concrete recommendations, represent diversity in words and images, and are grounded in cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing principles," said Dr. Sherman. "Patients and providers reported feeling empowered by the resources, and the handouts stimulated patient/physician discussions about topics that may not have emerged without the resources in the exam room."

Drs. Sherman and Hooker are available for brief consultation on implementing the curriculum, and their contact information is available on the website.