Free workshops help adults manage symptoms of ongoing health conditions

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Register now for fall Healthy U workshops

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For people with an ongoing (chronic) health condition such as diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, or arthritis, the day-to-day work of symptom management can be a grueling task. Fatigue, pain, isolation, confusion about medications, and worries about out-of-pocket medical costs are common issues.

A local workshop, called Healthy U, offers peer support and practical tips that help people manage their symptoms, save on health care costs, and improve their quality of life. Workshops start in September and October at a variety of familiar locations in southwestern Ohio. Registration is required. Click here for a complete list of Healthy U workshops.  A training for Healthy U leaders is also scheduled for October. 

Developed at Stanford University, Healthy U workshops are for adults with any ongoing health condition – and caregivers. The workshops are designed to help people gain self-confidence in their ability to control their symptoms and learn how their health problems affect their lives.

Cynthia Oglesby, 55 of Paddock Hills, had recently been diagnosed with diabetes when she learned about Healthy U from a friend. “I was so confused about my diet,” Oglesby said. “I was seeing a nutritionist, but I was so confused about what to eat on a daily basis. The workshop really straightened me out. I learned how to plan meals around my disease.”

Small-group, interactive workshops are six weeks long, meet once a week for 2 ½ hours, and are facilitated by a pair of leaders, one or both of whom are non-health professionals with chronic diseases themselves. Workshops meet in familiar locations such as churches, community/senior/recreation centers, YMCAs, and doctor’s offices.

Oglesby said she enjoyed learning from others in the workshop. For those six weeks, we were a support group for each other."

Healthy U participants receive a workbook and discuss topics including:

  • How to deal with frustration, fatigue, pain, and isolation
  • Ways to maintain and improve strength, flexibility, and endurance
  • Managing medications
  • How to communicate more effectively with family, friends, and health professionals
  • Healthy eating

According to a report released this year, nearly 43 percent of Ohio adults age 65 and older have two or more chronic health conditions (heart disease, stroke, diabetes, cancer, COPD, asthma, arthritis). These chronic conditions cost the state $25 billion in health care costs and lost productivity each year and have a serious impact on quality of life. As an evidence-based program, Healthy U is one part of Ohio’s plan to prevent and reduce the burden of chronic diseases for all Ohioans. Healthy U is available at more than 170 locations in Ohio. During the state’s 2015 fiscal year, approximately 1,700 Ohioans participated in 200 Healthy U workshops across the state.

National studies of the Healthy U program have found significant, measurable improvements in the health and quality of life of adults who participated in the program. Participants have reported significant improvements in exercise, symptom management, communication with physicians, fatigue, disability, and activities limitations. Additionally, participants spent fewer days in the hospital compared with those who did not participate in the program. The program is also shown to reduce health care costs, including $714 per person savings in emergency room visits and hospital utilization.

For Cynthia Oglesby, the results were significant. She lost 12 pounds during the workshop and was able to reduce the amount of medication she was taking for her condition.

Healthy U is an important part of Council on Aging’s mission to help people live independently in their homes and communities. In southwest Ohio, COA trains Healthy U facilitators and has a coordinator on staff who helps organize and promote workshops across COA’s service area (Butler, Clermont, Clinton, Hamilton and Warren counties). Since 2014, COA has trained 27 Healthy U facilitators and more than 440 adults with a variety of on-going conditions have participated 45 workshops throughout southwest Ohio.

Many people who complete the facilitator training are themselves Healthy U graduates. After Cynthia Oglesby completed the workshop and saw the impact it had on her health and quality of life, she enrolled in the facilitator training through COA. She hopes to begin leading workshops this fall.

The next Healthy U leadership training is scheduled for October 14, 15, 21, 22, and 28, from 8:30am - 4:30pm. Anyone interested in becoming a trained Healthy U leader can contact Elaine Hordes at 513-226-1585.