Stanford program helps those with chronic diseases

A group in Boardman, Ohio hosted the Healthy U program from Stanford University

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – A program developed at Stanford University is now being used in the Valley to help people with chronic diseases manage their lives.

Healthy U, Chronic Disease Self-Management Program is a small-group workshop to assist those with conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. The goal is to empower them to take control of their illness.

“If I can get any kind of outside help or insight, something I’m not doing now, to make life better — I’m open,” said Margie Ellis of Struthers, one of a dozen students attending the workshop’s first session at the Davis Family YMCA in Boardman.

Ellis has been dealing with essential tremor (ET) her entire life. She says it is often misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease, a different disorder that can cause people to tremor even when idle.

“Essential tremor, you shake when you’re trying to do something,” said Ellis. “You’re trying to eat, hold a fork, drink a glass of water, write your name. That’s when your tremor comes out.”

Three out of every four Americans age 65 or older is dealing with a chronic disease, according to the Pew Research Center. A six-week course like Healthy U includes instructions on sleeping better, exercising, and directing one’s mind off the pain and fatigue.

“We want people to understand that they can take control of their health,” said Tracy Styka, an instructor for Healthy U. “One thing that this class does is it empowers people to get them to self-manage their own health condition.”

Styka is a health educator for the Mahoning County District Board of Health. She has taught the workshop in the past, and says some students have called it “life-changing” in how they handle their chronic diseases.

“When you’re dealing with a chronic health condition, you can’t have that doctor with you on a daily basis,” Styka said. “You’re the one that needs to deal with that chronic health condition every day.”
Ellis added that just being able to empathize with others in the workshop who face chronic diseases has been beneficial for her.

“On the street, you can’t walk up to somebody and talk about your disability,” Ellis said. “But in here, I can come in and talk about it openly.”

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