The National Council on Aging has some online tools to promote chronic disease self-management. One is a web site entitled “Re-Imagine Your Life“, which explains chronic disease self-management programs (CDSMP), provides a video on how the training works, guides the viewer to find in-person or online workshops, offers several testimonials from people who are using what they learned from the workshops, and an FAQ about chronic disease self-management. The online version of the training is called, “Better Choices, Better Health”, and is currently available free thanks to a gift from sanofi-aventis to the NCOA. The font used on the web site is large and very readable, and the graphics are soft. The whole web site is very friendly.
The other online tool is a web site for alumni of the classes which they call the Healthier Living Alumni Community. It’s intended to provide a vehicle for support and reinforcement for implementation of the beneficial decisions that the participants initiated at the CDSMP. We need lots of tools like this to help people manage chronic illnesses, stabilize their conditions, improve function, and prevent further disability. It takes considerable effort to change a person’s lifestyle, but the benefits in quality of life, increased productivity, fewer days of work lost, diminished need for medication, decreased burden on families, and lower health care costs, taken together, are immeasurable. Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University
We are living longer in large measure because society has worked hard to control the spread of infectious diseases and medicine has developed treatments to cure acute illness. As a consequence, it is chronic disease that is costing us in later life, in dollars, productivity, and suffering. Most chronic diseases can be managed to improve outcomes and quality of life. Drugs and medical treatments contribute to management of these illnesses, but most of what is needed is a change in a person’s daily routines and habits. Achieving such lifestyle alterations is not as easy as taking a pill. It takes education, practice, support, and some resources. Our health care system is not primarily organized to provide the structure needed to promote chronic disease self-management. However, a number of programs have been successfully demonstrated and evaluated, and are becoming more widely available.
The evidence-based Stanford Chronic Disease Self-Management Program is disseminated in Michigan through the Michigan Department of Community Health, as the PATH program (Personal Action Toward Health). The program provides classes with information about medication and treatments, problems solving techniques, coping strategies, nutrition information, exercise and physical activity promotion, and ways of working with health care professionals. The relationships that form among class members are also an important aspect of support fostered by the program. Each area of the State has a contact person who knows about PATH programs implemented in that area.
At the national level, the National Council on Aging (NCOA) was recently named the National Resource Center on Chronic Disease Self-Management Education Programs to act as a clearinghouse for state and local organizations involved in chronic illness management. Contact the NCOA’s Center for Healthy Aging for more information on evidence-based programs and how to offer one. Sue Sweeney, Chair, Gerontology Department, Madonna University