Guest Post Written by Melanie Mitros, PhD, Director of the Arizona Living Well Institute:

Make regular deposits in your health account while minimizing the withdrawals!

Invest in your health by exercising regularly, eating a nutritious diet, managing stress and chronic conditions, and engaging with family and community as well as volunteering.

As the vision of healthy aging in AZ began to emerge with the first evidence-based programs grant to the State in 2007, many partnerships have developed to make this vision a reality. One such partnership between ADHS/BTCD, DES-DAAS, St. Luke’s Health Initiatives, and Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, resulted in the launch of the Arizona Living Well Institute (AZLWI) in April 2010.

The Arizona Living Well Institute is a public-private partnership encompassing all sectors of the healthcare community including area agencies on aging, local health departments, veterans’ services, hospitals and providers, community and faith-based organizations, insurance plans, and community health centers. The mission of AZLWI is to advance evidence-based programs for Arizona communities through structured communication, multi-level coordination and systematic coaching.  Supporting the dissemination of self-management programs throughout Arizona occurs by providing quality assurance, technical assistance, training and mentoring to individuals and organizations who are interested in evidence-based programs like Healthy Living. As part of the health education and wellness programs at Empowerment Systems, Inc., AZLWI is committed to developing partnerships with like-minded organizations to contribute to the overall wellbeing of individuals, families and communities across Arizona.

Healthy Living is a 6-week chronic disease self-management program (CDSMP) developed by Dr. Kate Lorig and colleagues at Stanford University. With over 20 years of research including multiple controlled trials and a recent National Study, the benefits of Healthy Living are well established.  Participants report increased physical activity, improved general health, better psychological well-being, increased energy/reduced fatigue, decreased ER visits and days in the hospital, and enhanced partnerships with their health care team.  The Healthy Living workshops are available in-person, online and in Spanish.  These programs include: Tomando Control de su Salud (Spanish CDSMP), Healthy Living with Arthritis, Healthy Living with Diabetes, Programa de Manejo Personal de la Diabetes (Spanish Diabetes), and Better Choices, Better Health® (online CDSMP) which are all evidence-based self-management programs developed by Stanford University.

Since 2010, AZLWI and its partners have shared workshops to 3,189 participants in all 15 AZ counties, including work with 6 tribes. In 2011, our services expanded to include behavioral health support where 40 workshops have been hosted with 371 participants and a 76% completion rate.  Behavioral health participants are younger and report higher rates of depression than the general population; however, their outcomes are just as favorable.  And based on preliminary data from the Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority, their results may be more favorable than the studies published at the national level. Our behavioral health providers are in a unique position in AZ where Healthy Living workshops are a reimbursable service.

We can make a difference in the lives of those living with an on-going health condition by creating an inclusive, far reaching mission for healthy aging for all ages in all communities.

It’s never too late to start & it’s always too early to quit!