Chronic Disease Self-Management Training at the Department of Revenue

By Guest Blogger Ana Karchmer, ELD

Many of us have to deal with one or more chronic health conditions. Learning how to successfully manage our conditions is key to living active and productive lives. Regardless of the particular illness we might have, we all have similar emotions when dealing with chronic illnesses. We might feel angry, depressed, anxious, frustrated, and afraid. Sometimes, we may wish we had a set of “tools” we could use to help us deal with these unpleasant emotions.

The Stanford University Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (in Massachusetts called “My Life, My Health”) gives us the tools we need to help us better manage our health conditions. This evidence based program consists of six group sessions that meet once a week for 2 ½ hours. The groups are limited to 10 to 18 participants and the sessions are facilitated by two trained lay leaders.

I coordinate a federal grant to promote and disseminate “My Life, My Health” in Massachusetts. Since 2010, over 6,500 adults have participated in workshops around the state. These workshops are typically held at senior centers, health care settings, residential facilities, and community centers. This past Spring, I had the opportunity to help bring this program to the Department of Revenue, working in collaboration with WellMASS and the DOR Employee Training & Development Bureau. The six-week series was held at the DOR offices in Chelsea on Friday mornings from April 25 to May 30. Fourteen employees participated in the workshop.

The implementation of the program had the full support of DOR Commissioner Amy Pitter. In the recruitment phase, she included information about the upcoming workshop in two of her weekly emails to employees. At the conclusion of the workshop she included the following in her June 6  weekly email:

Last Friday, ten DOR employees along with four ANF/IT employees completed the six-week My Life, My Health workshop in chronic disease self-management.  It was the culmination of a journey that was both an enlightening and inspirational experience for the participants.  During the confidential sessions with external instructors, they learned not only how to manage their own disease – or that of their loved ones – but also how to deal with the impact the disease has on their lives and emotions.  Participants learned the importance of action-planning, through which they were able to foster a deeper understanding and sense of self-efficacy.  The Department is committed to strengthening its workforce in a number of ways and this program allows us to integrate chronic disease self-management education with current wellness efforts.”

As Commissioner Pitter mentioned, participants were very satisfied with the program. All the participants felt valued and respected and stated they would use the new tools presented to help them manage their conditions. One participant wrote: “I wish this was a mandatory class for everyone. It’s a way of developing skills for better health and communication for people regardless of whether they have any health issues at all.” Another participant wrote: “The instructors were excellent. I would highly recommend this class to anyone, especially someone with chronic health issues.”

For a full calendar of program offerings please visit www.healthyliving4me.org. If you are interested in implementing this program at your agency, please contact Ana Karchmer at ana.karchmer@state.ma.us or call (617) 222-7490.

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