A home-based wellness program was just as beneficial to older patients with chronic illnesses as a course of classes in relaxation, exercise and nutrition, according to researchers.

In a study of 178 middle-aged and elderly patients from a Chicago HMO, those who took part in the home-based program using videotapes and follow-up phone calls responded as well as those who attended eight 2-hour classes. And both sets of patients did better than a control group that received no wellness education.

The patients, all of whom were African-American and suffered from various chronic medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, hypertension and arthritis, reported a better quality of life after receiving wellness instruction, including fewer medical symptoms, better sleep, and less anxiety and depression, according to the study led by Doctor of Rush University in Chicago.

“The most important aspect of the present study was the comparison of the benefits of a conventional classroom program with those of an equivalent home video program,” write Rybarczyk and colleagues. “These findings suggest that a home video version offers as many benefits as a classroom mind-body wellness intervention program.”

A home-based program, however, has several advantages, including lower cost, greater accessibility, and potential for reaching a far greater number of people, the researchers added.

“These results could serve as a counterpoint to a recent conclusion by a panel of healthcare industry experts that wellness programs are not necessarily cost-effective and need to be ‘rationed’ to selected groups of high-risk patients,” the authors conclude.