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The Ohio Department of Aging

Ohio Department of Aging Aging News and Perspective

Chronic disease self-management is a crucial part of minority health and aging
HEALTHY U helps all Ohioans learn how to feel and live better

April 13, 2017
By Stephanie M. Loucka, Director of the Ohio Department of Aging

Several factors can predict your overall health in life. Genetics have an undeniable influence on your health, but so do the choices you make. Your diet, how much you exercise and how often you see a doctor can have an impact on how healthy you are.

April is Minority Health MonthAs we grow older, we are more likely to have chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis. According to the 2015 Ohio Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 80 percent of Ohioans age 65 or older have at least one chronic condition, while nearly half (47 percent) have two or more. When older adults have access to preventive and medical care, such as a doctor or nurse specializing in geriatrics, they are more likely to have good health. However, geriatric specialists are in short supply and a national study found that 95 percent of health care costs for older Americans can be attributed to chronic conditions.

Studies indicate that many Ohioans, particularly racial and ethnic minorities, are less likely to get the preventive care they need to stay healthy. Further, these individuals and families are less likely to have access to quality health care when they are sick or injured. Thus, some minority groups have higher rates of preventable disease, disability and death than the overall population.

It stands to reason, then, that older minorities face unique challenges when it comes to maintaining good health. April is National Minority Health Month, and the Ohio Department of Aging and our partners in the aging network are working with the Ohio Commission on Minority Health to address the health disparities that minority seniors experience and help them manage their chronic health conditions so they can have the highest possible quality of life.

Healthy lifestyle and prevention programs can help minority seniors take control of their lives and work with their health care providers to manage their chronic health conditions. The Department of Aging sponsors the HEALTHY U Ohio initiative, which features a chronic disease self-management program that has been shown to produce significant, measurable improvements in the health and quality of older adults of all backgrounds. Interactive workshops help participants gain confidence in their ability to manage symptoms, understand how their health problems affect their lives, and communicate with their doctors and other health care professionals.

People who complete the HEALTHY U: Chronic Disease program report better health and better quality of life. They are less likely to experience fatigue, shortness of breath, pain and sleep problems. Further, they report fewer days when they feel depressed or just don’t feel well. Researchers estimate that individuals who complete the HEALTHY U workshops save $714 per year in costs related to preventable emergency room visits and hospitalizations.

HEALTHY U Ohio is available throughout the state, with focus on areas where preventing illness has the greatest potential for improving health outcomes. To find workshops where you live, visit the HEALTHY U Ohio website or call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the area agency on aging serving your community.

Working together, we can help assure that all older Ohioans have the opportunities and access to resources they need to grow and thrive throughout their lifespans.

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