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Living with chronic illness course taught at UNHS Community Health Centers - Medically Speaking, Volume One, Number Eight, 3/13/14

Living with chronic illness course taught at UNHS Community Health Centers

If you, or someone you know, are living with a chronic illness that is difficult to cope with, you might be interested in knowing you are not alone.

A new series of classes conducted by the Utah Navajo Health System, Inc., is designed to help people with chronic illnesses learn to cope with those illnesses on a day-to-day basis. The six-week course, entitled 'Living Well With Chronic Conditions,' is also intended to be a support group for those interested in learning to manage chronic symptoms, use medications as directed, relax and deal with difficult emotions. Classes are held in a group setting, in which members of the class can interact with each other, brainstorm and share experiences. The classes include patients of all ages, with all types of chronic illnesses and conditions, and are taught by specially trained employees of UNHS.

According to Tiona Billie, one of the trained instructors from the UNHS Blanding Family Practice office, the course was developed by researchers at Stanford University's Chronic Disease Self-Management Program. It has been taught, successfully, in a number of areas and is now being offered in San Juan County. UNHS instructors from Community Health Centers in Blanding, Montezuma Creek, Monument Valley and Navajo Mountain were trained earlier this year. During the training, instructors were required to complete each of the six classes they will teach as part of the six-week course. Billie said instructors had to participate in each class as both instructor and participant, so they could understand the various topics to be taught from all perspectives.

She said the classes are intended to help patients with chronic conditions, and their family members. There is no limit on how many can attend the classes. Patients with chronic conditions can share their experiences with other patients, learn how other patients with similar conditions cope with their conditions, and offer support for other patients. It helps them understand they are not alone, Billie said. Family members, and those who care for patients with chronic illnesses, have an opportunity to learn more about what these patients experience every day; and gain a better understanding and feeling for how to help them.

The classes are taught by two or three instructors, depending on the location. The 2-1/2-hour classes include instruction on a different topic in each of the six classes. Topics include: Getting a good night's sleep; Dealing with difficult emotions, physical activity, preventing falls; Pain and fatigue management, endurance exercise, relaxation; and others designed to help patients cope with chronic illness. Those in the class have an opportunity to comment, brainstorm and interact with each other and the instructor. Billie said the classes are meant to be fun, instructive and interactive.

At the Navajo Mountain location, classes are taught in Navajo. At Monument Valley and Montezuma Creek some of the class is taught in Navajo. At Blanding Family Practice the classes are taught in English. Billie explained that the Stanford course was translated into 88 different languages, but not Navajo. She said many words in English couldn't be translated into Navajo, but where necessary, the Navajo language will be used. Classes require six participants to begin, but after the first class, if you have to miss a class you can still attend the next week. However, it is better if participants attend each class, Billie explained.

Classes in Blanding are taught in the conference room of the old Blanding Family Practice building, across from Blue Mountain Hospital. They begin on March 26 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For more information contact Tiona Billie at 435-678-3601, or Yikanee Sampson at 435-678-4764.

At Montezuma Creek classes started on March 11, and classes will be held every Tuesday from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. in the basement of the Montezuma Creek Community Health Center's Administration building. Call Margaret Nakai or Kendra Tortilita at 435-651-3724, or Cynthia Benally at 435-651-3722.

At Monument Valley classes began on Wednesday, March 5 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. For information, contact Danielle Atene, Emanuel Holiday or Korene Atene at 435-727-3000.

At Navajo Mountain classes are held at the Community Health Center from 2:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more information contact Sara Ateno or Tonya Garcia at 928-672-2494.

"There hasn't been any support group or anything that helps patients and families deal with chronic conditions before," Billie said. "Living Well is an evidence-based program that will help them cope with these conditions."

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