Taking Control of Chronic Illness

  • July 03, 2012
  • Newsroom, Americares Free Clinics, Danbury

Patients diagnosed with hypertension, diabetes and other chronic health problems often know they can improve their health with a better diet and exercise. But getting them to make those changes part of their daily routine can sometimes seem like an insurmountable obstacle. Now, for the first time, our patients will benefit from a national program designed to motivate participants to make those life-changing decisions.

Starting this summer, patients of the Boehringer Ingelheim AmeriCares Free Clinic of Danbury will participate in the six-week Live Well program based on Stanford University’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. About 16 patients will spend 2.5 hours a week learning techniques for coping with the pain, frustration, fatigue and often isolation that comes with a chronic diagnosis. Participants will also learn about exercise, nutrition and other ways to manage their conditions. The program has demonstrated significant health improvements including fewer hospitalizations and outpatient visits.

“We’ve counseled patients on diet and exercise habits on an individual basis, but bringing patients together to motivate one another is so much more powerful,” said AmeriCares Free Clinics Executive Director Karen Gottlieb. “More than two-thirds of all patient visits are for the management of chronic disease. This new approach will allow us to attack the problem from another angle – one that could make all the difference.”

Nationwide, 91 percent of older adults have at least one chronic illness and 73 percent of Americans have at least two chronic diseases, according to the National Council on Aging. Other approaches to increase wellness are in the works, including individual wellness coaching and nutrition classes. Over the next year we expect these programs to be offered at all clinic sites.