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Leading their peers to better health

Get Better Together gets people with chronic conditions working together

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Get Better Together provincial and outreach coordinator Amy Yonda (left) and Judy Simcox, a participant and peer leader of the Wellness Institute program.

PHOTO BY JORDAN THOMPSON Enlarge Image

Get Better Together provincial and outreach coordinator Amy Yonda (left) and Judy Simcox, a participant and peer leader of the Wellness Institute program. Photo Store

Chronic disease self-management doesn’t have to be a solo endeavour.


Supported by the Wellness Institute, along with Manitoba Health and participating regional health authorities, Get Better Together (GBT) is a free six-week workshop that helps people with chronic diseases or ongoing health conditions take control of their health.

The program, developed by Stanford University, runs in two-and-a-half hour sessions and covers such topics as diet, exercise, communication with family, friends and health professionals, and dealing with fatigue and pain.

A peer-led program, GBT is taught by people living with chronic conditions rather than health care professionals.

"The thought behind this is when a program is taught by health care professionals people learn more, but when taught by peer leaders they do more," said Amy Yonda, provincial and outreach co-ordinator for GBT.

"The idea is to change their habits or their self-management tasks and help them better manage."

After suffering a cardiac event a couple years ago, North Kildonan resident Judy Simcox participated in the Wellness Institute’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program. There, she discovered GBT and signed up with a friend.

Now, Simcox is one of the program’s peer leaders. In addition to the information GBT delivers, Simcox said the workshop is successful because of the social support it offers.

"You learn that you’re not alone with a chronic condition because no matter what chronic condition it is, there are things that tie you all together," Simcox, 60, said.

"It just helps you cope with the anxiety, the getting on with things, learning to relax. If you are suffering from a chronic condition and you don’t know anybody else that is, nobody can relate to you, but when you go to this class it’s like ‘Oh, I’m like that too.’"

Yonda said GBT is ideal for those suffering from any chronic condition and that participants are provided a book, Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions, which goes into more condition-specific information.

According to its year-end report, in 2012-2013, a total of 54 GBT programs ran throughout the province, as well as two online programs, with 599 people participating in the in-person program.

Simcox, who works out twice a week at Wellness Institute, said she loves leading the program.

"When I go there, I just feel like one of the people, so I don’t get nervous when I’m in front of the class," Simcox said. "I thought I’d be really nervous because I’ve never taught before, but I just feel really comfortable because I know how much (program) helped me."

Wellness Institute (1075 Leila Ave.) will offer a GBT program starting Tues. Feb. 11 at 1 p.m. To register, call 204-632-3927 or email gbt@wellnessinstitute.ca

For more information on GBT, including other GBT workshops running across Winnipeg and the Manitoba, go to www.sogh.ca/wellness/get-better-together

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