Cassondra Chaput and Kristen Cook, health educators with FirstHealth Community Health Services.
ROCKINGHAM – Angeline Kendall David is a busy woman, and one would be wise to not get in her way. The 62-year-old mother, aunt and town councilwoman in the Dobbins Heights community north of Hamlet has a full agenda and no time for physical limitations. That’s why she participated – and found success – in Living Healthy, a chronic disease self-management program offered at no cost by FirstHealth of the Carolinas.
“The classes at FirstHealth helped me get myself back together,” David said. Several health issues, including an automobile accident in 2006, heart attacks in 2008 and 2016, and a mini stroke in 2013 left her with pain in her shoulder and lower extremities. She was also on a trajectory for type 2 diabetes. “I also didn’t take my medicine regularly, which could have been a contributor,” she added.
Enter Cassondra Chaput and Kristen Cook, two health educators with FirstHealth Community Health Services. David was referred to Living Healthy, a course recently introduced to the Sandhills and facilitated by Chaput and Cook. Living Healthy spans six sessions filled with informative content and social support with the goal of bolstering participants’ confidence in managing their pain and fatigue by helping them start and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
David and other participants, including her daughter, met weekly with Chaput and Cook at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital – Richmond to identify areas of opportunity and create action plans for change.
“Angeline was a rockstar in the Living Healthy program we hosted in late 2018,” said Chaput. “She consistently came to class, assigned goals for herself and achieved them. She was also a wonderful cheerleader for her classmates, which helped them progress on their journey, too.”
At the end of the program, David and other participants walked away with a fully equipped “Self-Management Tool Box.” Topics in the tool box covered physical activity, proper use of medications, decision making, action planning, breathing techniques, understanding emotions, problem solving, using the mind, sleep, communication, healthy eating, weight management and working with health professionals.
An open, collaborative environment and emphasis on social support are essential elements of the program that David found helpful. “I liked that my daughter and I were able to talk about it and keep each other honest with our exercising,” she said. She and a host of friends now meet three times each week at the Dobbins Heights Community Center for various types of exercise. Always the community leader, David proudly reported the group has grown from just a few to 15 regular participants.
“I want you to know that the exercise works more than taking pain medicine for me,” David declared. “I still have pain, but I’m able to exercise like I want, and I can also work in the garden sponsored by FirstHealth in Dobbins Heights,” which would have been difficult before. “I’ve even done a Zumba class,” she added with a laugh.
Mindful eating also proved beneficial as part of David’s program. “Cassondra and Kristen taught us to jot down everything we eat and record any reactions,” she said. “I found that if I eat red meat or fish, my pain comes back, so I avoid those. I also don’t drink soda, which has acid. Cassondra talked about limiting acid in our diet, so now I drink just water. I do put little bit of apple cider vinegar in my water, and that gives it a bit of taste.”
Lessons in self-care also resonated with David. “I learned that I can say ‘no’,” reported the lifelong volunteer. “I now know that I need to devote some time to me – including my time for exercise – and care for myself.”
FirstHealth Community Health Services launched Living Healthy to the system’s service area in late 2018. “Our service area, including Moore, Montgomery, Richmond, Hoke and Lee counties, has high rates of chronic diseases, especially diabetes, heart disease, obesity and hypertension,” said Cook, who serves as the Living Healthy program coordinator. “We are pleased to offer this program to our communities, as it has been scientifically proven to help patients become better self-managers, improve their health outcomes and reduce their rates of re-admission to the emergency room.”
The chronic disease self-management program, developed by a team of researchers at Stanford University, is delivered in partnership with East Carolina University's Office of Healthy Aging Research, Education and Services (OHARES) and is one of several evidence-based interventions FirstHealth is implementing under the Healthy People, Healthy Carolinas grant received from The Duke Endowment.
Living Healthy is open to adults with one or more chronic conditions, ranging from asthma, lower back pain, IBS or migraines to more life-altering conditions including diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease and more. Caregivers of those with a chronic condition are also encouraged to attend. No doctor referral is needed.
FirstHealth Community Health Services offers additional programs targeting patients with chronic lifestyle-based diseases, including the Center for Disease Control's Prevent T2 diabetes prevention program; Know It, Control It! hypertension management program; FirstQuit tobacco cessation; and general nutrition and physical activity education.
As for David, whose mantra is “stay positive and stay focused,” Living Healthy has helped her do just that and maintain her full plate. “I’m not quitting,” she asserted. “I don’t want to be left behind.”
Living Healthy will be offered at FirstHealth Moore Regional Hospital - Richmond starting on May 17. Six weekly sessions will be held from 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. Registration information about the free program is available by calling Kristen Cook at (910) 715-6270 or Janice Roberts at (910) 997-8255.