Every day, millions of Canadians live with the effects of chronic illnesses that can sometimes be debilitating, including conditions such as inflammatory bowel disease, hepatitis, and GI-related chronic pain. The breadth of chronic illness has grown substantially over the past couple of decades and the traditional healthcare approach based on acute health issues has had to transform accordingly. The patient’s role in managing his or her own health has been expanding and the healthcare community has responded by developing resources such as the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program (CDSMP). Obtaining a diagnosis and treatment plan from your physician is not the end point of managing your condition; it is now actually the starting point.

Founded twenty years ago by Stanford University, CDSMP is now available across North America, Australia, and Europe. The structure of the CDSMP is a free six-week workshop for individuals living with a particular chronic illness. A workshop normally includes 10-12 people who have varied diagnoses and who meet once a week for 2.5 hours. Some of the topics covered include: healthy eating, reducing stress and anxiety, goal setting, managing the negative emotions of chronic illness, and communicating with family and friends. There is a related 4-day training program for workshop leaders, who usually have some personal connection to chronic illness.

The CDSMP may be an ideal complement to your medical treatment, but it should not replace regular visits with your GP or specialist. Each province organizes its own CDSMP workshops. Start by talking with your physician or other local healthcare provider about programs available in your area.

First published in the Inside Tract® newsletter issue 181 – 2012