TC:Rural's Living Well with a Disability featured in Centers for Disease Control Awareness Campaign

March 27, 2017

The Research and Training Center on Disability in Rural Communities (RTC:Rural) at the University of Montana Rural Institute is honored to have their Living Well with a Disability (LWD) program featured in a targeted awareness campaign sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The six-month campaign Self-Management Education: Learn More. Feel Better. is being conducted in Wisconsin to promote self-management education (SME) as a tool to manage chronic health conditions.

Self-management education has been proven to reduce symptoms of chronic conditions and to improve overall quality of life. Research by RTC:Rural suggests that implementing SME programs, specifically LWD, could save millions of dollars in Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance costs and is a promising intervention that has demonstrated improvements in health-related quality of life and health care use. However, many of the public are unaware of available SME programs, and the CDC's Learn More. Feel Better. campaign aims to bridge this information gap.

According to 2014 American Community Survey data, the rate of disability across the United States is 12.4%. In rural America, that percentage increases to 17.7%. Overall, people living in rural areas are more likely to be unemployed, living in poverty, elderly, or experience a disability, and as a result are more likely to qualify for Medicare/Medicaid. 

LWD is one of the six SME programs featured on the Disability-Specific SME Programs campaign website. The CDC has been involved with LWD since its initial development at RTC:Rural in 1987, and has continued to provide funding, support, and promotion of the program at various levels throughout the years. Most recently, RTC:Rural received funding to continue the LWD Program's history of research and development under a five year grant to translate it into a state-of-the-art online health promotion curriculum. This grant funding is provided by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) within the Administration for Community Living, at the US Department of Health and Human Services.

LWD is a 10 week peer-facilitated workshop focusing on the health-management needs of people with disabilities, and is currently offered in 46 states by over 250 Centers for Independent Living and internationally.

Grounded in consumer choice and peer support and based on independent living philosophy, LWD introduces and builds the self-management skills needed to set and achieve quality-of-life goals. It provides tools for managing health and making healthy lifestyle changes, increasing physical activity, developing and maintaining healthy relationships, improving nutrition, avoiding depression and frustration, and advocating for community changes. Notably, participants' goal-setting and problem-solving activities drive their health behavior changes, linking health with function.

"The Living Well program got me beyond the feeling that life was over and I was useless," said Judy, a workshop participant, in her online testimonial. "The program not only gave me information, it also gave me the opportunity to discuss common problems with other disabled people who had problems and needed help. I began to realize that I could help others with many of the situations that I had gone through and still had a lot to give."

For more information on Living Well with a Disability or to find a LWD workshop in your area, please visit the Living Well with a Disability website at livingandworkingwell.ruralinstitute.umt.edu or email livingwell@ruralinstitute.umt.edu.

For nearly 30 years, RTC: Rural has conducted disability research as part of the Rural Institute at the University of Montana. RTC: Rural is funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to improve the ability of people with disabilities to engage in rural community living. The research described in this article is funded by NIDILRR (RTC:Rural 90RT50250100).