This six-week course might help you live better

Imagine living a healthy life and rediscovering a zest for living. For anyone who suffers from one or more chronic health conditions, days can be filled with anxiety, fatigue, frustration, pain and depression. Figuring out how to best manage an ongoing health condition can be confusing and complicated. Caregivers, as well, often are discouraged about how to help someone with a chronic health issue and their health almost always suffers.
Healthy Communities (a Physicians of Southwest Washington foundation) offers a free-of-charge six-week workshop that teaches practical self-management methods for those affected by ongoing health issues. Promoted as Living Well in the Puget Sound area, the program is proven to be safe and supportive with beneficial results.
Living Well workshops are specifically tailored to help participants with chronic health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, chronic pain or anxiety. Participants learn to take charge of health care challenges, improve quality of life, create a more positive outlook, and feel better about themselves by providing tools that can be used to live more fully with a chronic condition.
Topics addressed during the Living Well workshop include:
* Controlling pain.
* Dealing with fatigue, frustration and isolation.
* Starting an exercise program.
* Handling stress and learning to relax.
* Eating well to live well.
* Using medications effectively.
* Communicating with doctors about health and health care.
* Learning how to set personal health care goals and action plans for better living.
It is the process in which the Living Well program is conducted that makes it effective. Classes are highly participative, where mutual support and success build individual participants’ confidence in his or her ability to manage their health and maintain an active and fulfilling life.
Participants with different types of chronic health problems attend the workshop together. In addition, many of the Living Well workshop participants have more than one chronic condition. The program is especially helpful for these individuals.
Workshops are facilitated by two leaders who have received 30 hours of intensive leader training. Often, one or both of the leaders are non-health professionals who also experience ongoing health conditions.
Each participant in the workshop receives a copy of the companion book, “Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions” (fourth edition), and a self-management audio CD.
The Living Well program does not conflict with existing programs or ongoing health care treatment. It is designed to enhance regular treatment and disease-specific education such as Better Breathers, cardiac rehabilitation or diabetes instruction.
Originally developed by Stanford University as the Chronic Disease Self Management Program, more than 1,000 people with chronic health conditions were trained and evaluated over a course of three years. The results, when compared to those who did not participate in the program, demonstrated significant improvements in exercise, symptom management, communication with physicians, self-reported general health and health distress, fatigue, disability, and social/role activities limitations. Further, participants spent fewer days in the hospital, and there was a trend toward fewer outpatient visits and hospitalizations. We hope you will consider this step towards a healthier and happier 2013.
For more information
To learn more about the Living Well program, to register for a workshop, or to find out how to become a workshop trainer, contact Dr. Dave at Healthy Communities at (360) 786-8690 (extension 127), or 1-877-943-4337 (toll-free).

Dr. Dave Hughes wrote this article. He is the director of program development for Healthy Communities Foundation, which is in based in Olympia.