A Six-Week Class that Lasts a Lifetime
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A Six-Week Class that Lasts a Lifetime

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Jose Queddeng suffered a debilitating stroke in November 2010 that lessened his quality of life and left him little hope for the future.

Prior to his stroke, Queddeng seldom took his medications unless reminded, never questioned doctors, and paid little attention to his diet. He was unaware that his choices would eventually catch up to him.

“I have always known about my conditions, but have never known how to take care of myself,” said Queddeng, 60, who has a history of heart disease and high blood pressure and lives with one kidney.

That changed when Queddeng enrolled in a free community workshop series called Better Choices, Better Health. Over six weeks, he learned how to cope with the challenges he faces and better manage his health.

“The program made me realize that I was taking medications that were working against each other,” Queddeng said. “After the course, I now take the time to read labels, educate myself, and ask questions.”

Reducing Symptoms, Living Better 

Developed at Stanford University in 1992, Better Choices, Better Health is designed to help people who are dealing with serious, but not critical, health conditions that can erode their quality of life. Examples include diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.

The small-group workshops are led by people who are living with their own chronic conditions. Participants learn how to eat well, exercise, and communicate with their doctors so they can reduce their symptoms and live better.

Most people spend only a few minutes a month in the doctor’s office and spend the rest of their time coping with medications and symptoms on their own. Patients and experts agree that an essential part of living better with chronic disease is for people to learn how to manage their condition with support from their family, friends, and community.

Lana Queddeng, Jose’s wife of 30 years, says the workshop pushed her husband to take charge of not only his health but his life.

“This program gave me back the man that I married a long time ago. It was only a six-week class, but it will last us a lifetime.”

A Model Program 

Better Choices, Better Health is offered on six major Hawaiian Islands (Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Hawaii) and has served 1,415 people since 2007. On Maui alone 78% (22,849) of Maui’s 60+ population are managing their lives with one or more chronic conditions. Similar programs are offered in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.

“Many of our participants have experienced marked improvements in their chronic conditions and their overall health, and they have been the program's significant promoters,” said Jo Reyes, Program Specialist for the County of Maui Office on Aging.

As policymakers search for innovative, evidence-based programs that can both save money and improve quality, Better Choices, Better Health is emerging as a model program that needs to be made more available to chronically ill seniors. 

Better Choices, Better Health also reduces health care costs by decreasing emergency room trips and hospital stays. 

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