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Classes key to keeping chronic diseases at bay
Dec 07, 2013 | 1087 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print

BY Utah Department of Health

 Utah Department of Health data show that arthritis affects the lives of nearly one in five Utahns, or more than 415,000 of the state’s adults. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability in Utah and the nation, that data indicates. 

With that in mind, the Davis County Health Department encourages people with the disease to live high-quality lives through healthy aging. A self-management workshop is among those tools provided to accomplish that goal. 

However, only a few of those with arthritis participate in the widely-available, low-cost, self-management workshop. 

Its goal is to help people manage symptoms, get more active, and maintain their independence. The course, developed at Stanford University, is called Living Well with Chronic Conditions. It is now offered across the state, including Davis County. 

The next workshop series in Davis County starts Tuesday, Jan. 7,  2 p.m. to 4 p.m., at Clearfield Aquatic Center, 825 South State Street, Clearfield. The workshop is free. However, registration is required. Contact Jessica Hardcastle at 801-525-5087 or email  jhardcastle@daviscountyutah.gov or visit  http://health.utah.gov/arthritis/classes/livingwell.html.

Carol Bellmon of Layton is 67, and recently retired. “Once I retired I figured my real job was to stay healthy,” she said, noting that  “What I  learned (in the workshop) still guides me today.”

Workshops include groups of 10-15 individuals with a variety of chronic conditions including arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, depression, chronic pain, and many others. 

The classes are led by two facilitators who typically have chronic conditions themselves. They focus on managing symptoms with exercise, nutrition, relaxation techniques, better communication with doctors, and a variety of other tools. 

Participants meet once a week for six weeks and report that they find the information provided helps with pain, fatigue, and even stress and depression.

Carol said the classes teach things that most people already know, but help participants put that added that it helps with putting that knowledge into practice. 

“There’s a big difference between understanding what you need to do versus doing it!” she said. 

The Living Well with Chronic Conditions program emphasizes the individual’s role in managing his or her own health and builds self-confidence so people can adopt long-term healthy behaviors.

At the end of the two-hour sessions, students share their weekly action plans and set small, achievable goals about which they can report the following week.

In Carol’s case, she set a simple goal to walk more. She found that she became more disciplined, paid closer attention to her health, lost a little weight, and improved her mental outlook.

 “The class holds you accountable,” she said. “You learn something about yourself. I realized I had the power to make these changes if I wanted to.”

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that self-management workshop participants show big improvements in their symptoms and their ability to control their diseases. 

Participants  have less pain, fatigue, anxiety, and even depression. The classes give people the knowledge and skills to keep themselves healthy. Participants also find that they are making fewer doctor visits and hospital stays. 

In the workshop, participants find people who are experiencing similar challenges and say the workshops feel more like a support group, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. 

“I met new people who I still stay in touch with. The workshop really forged our friendship,” Carol said.

Since taking the class last year, Carol remains active and is an avid Pickleball player, attesting to it being one of the most painless ways to exercise and laugh, as well as meet new people. 

“The more I move the less my arthritis bugs me. I get to stay healthy and fulfill items on my bucket list that I would otherwise never have done.” 

In fact, she is now planning to take an African safari.

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