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Program offers classes on a range of topics
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By Melissa Fuerst
Jan/Feb 2019

With the new year now underway, many of us will be thinking about ways in which we might be able to make positive changes in our lives.

For some, that will mean taking specific steps to enhance our health and well-being, by resolving to exercise more or adopt healthier eating habits. For others, it might involve enrolling in classes to learn more about managing a chronic health issue such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes or a heart condition.

This is where the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA) can help.

Starting this month, the WRHA's Health Management Group is offering courses in a number of areas, including health education, chronic disease management and rehabilitation. Each course is designed to provide participants with the knowledge and skills they need to better deal with specific health issues that affect thousands of Manitobans.

The Commit to Quit tobacco cessation course is a case in point.

While the rate of smoking in Manitoba has decreased in recent years, 16.3 per cent of Manitobans still smoke, and 70 per cent of these people would like to quit.

But doing so is not easy. According to the Manitoba Lung Association, 86 per cent of smokers start before the age of 21. And those who do start early soon become addicted to the nicotine that is found in each and every cigarette. People often forget that nicotine - one of about 7,000 chemicals found in cigarettes - is an extremely powerful drug, one that is considered to be as addictive as heroin or cocaine. So it should come as no surprise that people who start smoking at an early age often have an incredibly difficult time kicking the habit as they grow older.

Commit to Quit, which consists of five 60- to-90- minute sessions, is designed to help these people by providing them with the support they need to develop a truly effective "quit plan." This is important because most experts agree that people who develop a quit plan have an increased chance of success. Those attending the course will also learn about smoking cessation medications and how to build the skills required to "stay quit" over time. Most people will be ready to quit using tobacco, which is associated with numerous health issues, after Week Four of the course.

Another class that is certain to prove popular is Craving Change. This course, which consists of three 60 - to-90 minute sessions, will delve into some of the more complicated issues that surround our decisions to eat certain foods. In addition to gaining new insights into factors that influence food choices, those attending the course will also learn how to change their thinking about using food for comfort and how to make healthy changes to their eating habits.

For those who want to take a more active role in managing their health condition, Get Better Together may be the perfect place to start. Get Better Together teaches the skills to help cope with illness, and the frustration, fatigue, pain and isolation that often co-exist. This course can be taken in person or online, and is designed to help you gain the confidence and skills to better manage your health. Those who attend the course are also invited to bring a support person.

The WRHA is also offering courses to help people learn more about chronic health conditions and how to manage them. For example, there is a four-part series on diabetes. The series will explore the nature of diabetes and how it affects the body. It also provides information on prevention, and management, focusing on nutrition, stress management, and physical activity. Classes can be taken in the order you choose. Other courses address heart health, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and living with chronic pain.

Many of these courses are free and will be offered in various locations across the city throughout the year. That means if you miss the winter course, you will be able to enroll in the same one during the spring. To download a calendar of courses, including start times and locations, please visit www.wrha.mb.ca/groups. And take the first step towards improving your health and well-being in 2019.

Melissa Fuerst is a chronic disease specialist with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's Chronic Disease Collaborative.