Leveraging Behavioral Economics to Equitably Implement Cascade Screening in Individuals with Familial Hypercholesterolemia in Partnership with the FH Foundation

Project: Research project

Project Details


The proposed project leverages our longstanding partnership with the Family Heart Foundation (FHF), a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, to refine and test two promising approaches to implement cascade screening in individuals with familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). Despite evidence-based guidelines for FH diagnosis and treatment, over 1 million Americans with this inherited condition remain undiagnosed, and substantial disparities exist in racial/ethnic minorities (Black and African American people, Asian people) and women. Cascade screening is an evidence-based practice of contacting and screening first-degree biological relatives of FH probands, improves timely FH diagnosis, and reduces morbidity cost-effectively. Cascade screening programs have been successful in other countries where health systems play a key role in notifying relatives, but major implementation challenges limit uptake in the U.S. Pilot projects have identified barriers including regulatory constraints limiting health system outreach and difficulty contacting family members outside a given health system. In the U.S., cascade screening must involve the proband given regulatory constraints. Applying advances in behavioral economics has great potential to improve implementation of cascade screening via proband-mediated strategies. Led by MPIs with expertise in implementation science (Beidas), behavioral economics (Volpp), and FH (Rader), we have co-designed, and will pilot and test two patient-facing implementation strategies to increase reach of cascade screening with 300 probands from Penn Medicine. Our randomized controlled trial will test (a) a health system-mediated strategy using automated text messages, (b) a Family Heart Foundation-mediated strategy using a navigator, and (c) the “usual care” approach to cascade screening. Both active strategies will be informed by behavioral economics. In the R61 phase, we co-designed health system- and FHF-mediated implementation strategies using behavioral economics in partnership with the FHF and key stakeholders from diverse backgrounds (Aim 1) and are piloting our strategies with 20 FH probands to ascertain feasibility, acceptability, and appropriateness (Aim 2). In the R33 phase, we will conduct a 3-arm hybrid Type 3 effectiveness-implementation RCT, and compare the effect of health system-mediated, FHF-mediated, and usual care approaches on reach (proportion of probands who have at least one family member who completes screening), number of family members screened, number of family members diagnosed with FH, and proband LDL-C levels (Aim 1). We will use mixed methods to identify implementation strategy mechanisms focusing on health equity by oversampling populations that experience disparities (Aim 2). By testing sustainable and scalable implementation approaches, our study results will be poised to guide future wide-scale implementation of cascade screening for FH and other genetic conditions within and outside large health systems while also answering important questions related to equitable implementation. Successful strategies can be taken to scale nationally to save lives, in keeping with NHLBI Strategic Objective 6.
Effective start/end date3/1/232/28/27


  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (4R33HL161752-03)


Explore the research topics touched on by this project. These labels are generated based on the underlying awards/grants. Together they form a unique fingerprint.