Project offers Rx for care of chronic health problems

Seniors who have learned techniques for managing their own health will take self-help message to community

by Hilary Thomson staff writer

UBC's Institute of Health Promotion Research (IHPR) has received a one-year grant of close to $100,000--the largest grant of its kind--from the Vancouver-Richmond Health Board to launch a program that helps people cope with chronic health conditions.

Called the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP), it is the only program of its scale in Canada.

The six-session program will see 90 seniors, many of whom have chronic health problems, working in pairs to deliver the free patient education program to 450 people at community centres in Vancouver and Richmond.

"This program doesn't replace information from health-care practitioners," says Patrick McGowan, IHPR's assistant director who leads the project. "It's a self-care strategy that gives people the skills and confidence needed to manage their health on a daily basis."

Research has shown the average senior must cope with more than one chronic health condition, adds McGowan.

Each two-hour weekly session targets conditions such as arthritis, heart and lung diseases, diabetes and stroke. Most of the participants in the six-week course will be seniors--spouses, family members and friends are encouraged to attend.

Topics covered include exercise, how to recognize and act on symptoms, nutrition, dealing with emotions of fear, anger and depression and communicating with health professionals.

"This is a program that empowers people," says project co-ordinator Barbara Henn-Pander. She is working with a 15-member advisory committee of community members, many of whom have chronic illnesses and all of whom have participated in or taught the program.

The committee--all members of various community health organizations--will assist in selecting and arranging three-day training workshops for the team of program leaders.

"Information offered by the program leaders has validity because the group knows that person understands and has been there," says Bonnie Boieeie, a retired nurse and one of six leader trainers. "People think `if she can do it, I can do it.'"

The program leaders follow a standard course outline. A 300-page book called Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions is given to each participant.

Evaluations of similar programs offered in the US and the Yukon showed improvement in participants' self-reported health and fewer hospitalizations of shorter duration.

Leader training sessions will start in April and courses will be offered soon after. The project will be completed and evaluated by March 2001.

Funding for the program is provided through Vancouver-Richmond Health Board's Community Health Initiative Fund. The committee aims to make CDSMP a regularly offered health board program.

more information

For course dates and locations contact Barbara Henn-Pander at 604-822-0634.