Over the last 10 years health-insurance companies have stressed the need for preventative health care and wellness programs. Well ahead of the curve in establishing these programs and evaluating their effectiveness are Janice M. Prochaska and her company, Pro-Change Behavior Systems Inc. of South Kingstown.
Since 1997, Prochaska has been on the cutting edge of changing people’s behavior to help improve their health and well-being.
Her goal is simple, to offer evidence-based, behavior-change solutions to health care problems. To do so, the company conducts scientific research to produce effective solutions. The company was founded by her husband, James O. Prochaska, who now serves as a consultant and is still the head of the cancer-prevention research center at the University of Rhode Island. Prochaska is president and CEO and the company is a certified woman’s business enterprise.
She holds an adjunct faculty position at URI, earned a master’s in social work from Wayne State University and a Ph.D. in social work administration and policy from Boston College. She has also published more than 100 papers on the transtheoretical model and behavior change and social work.
Pro-Change Behavior Systems Inc. began when it received funding in the late 1990s from Electronic Data Systems, an information technology equipment and services company headed by H. Ross Perot. The money was to help apply the “transtheoretical model,” a behavioral change-management program based on “stages of change” and processing feedback at each step. With Prochaska having completed her dissertation on the subject, the fit was perfect. “That helped us with gathering funding from the outside,” she said. Soon thereafter the company signed two contracts for health-behavior change for illnesses such as diabetes and weight.
“At the same time we also learned about Small Business Innovation Research grants from the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Protection,” she said. “We were fortunate to get fast-tracked and receive a Phase I and II grant early in our formation.”
The NIH sets aside a certain amount of funding for small business and with each passing year the process becomes increasingly competitive.
The company’s first grant was to investigate stress management, so Pro-Change conducted numerous end-user interviews to discover what people needed to manage stress and if some treatments were better than others. Pro-Change then builds online programs to manage stress, stop smoking, lose weight and for other health-related issues.
“We test the programs in randomized clinical trials to see if they’re effective,” she said. If they are, they are licensed to wellness partners that disseminate the programs to a variety of end users, she said.
Pro-Change employs 20 people, many of whom are University of Rhode Island graduates, primarily from the psychology department.
In May, the company outgrew its office space and moved to their new location at 1174 Kingstown Road in the Palisades Mill in South Kingstown.
Despite a tentative economy, the company has received seven SBIR grants in the last five years. It has been able to keep a stable revenue stream and so far has avoided laying off employees – all a credit to Prochaska’s leadership. •