Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Tailored interventions support healthy lifestyle for cancer survivors

A West Gippsland based project for cancer patients and survivors aims to move tailored health eating and active lifestyle programs out of institutions and into the community.

“Eat Well, Move Often, Live Better” is a 12-month project funded through a $100,000 grant from the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services. Partners West Gippsland Healthcare Group, Gippsland PHN and Monash University UDRH will develop an evidence-based program that can be translated into other regions and models of care.

Building community capacity to support health lifestyles for cancer survivors is one of the main aims of the program.

Monash researcher, Dr Eli Ristevski said significant weight gain can have a detrimental effect on cancer survivors’ quality of life and increases the risk of their developing other chronic diseases. And, alarmingly, nearly half the population in West Gippsland is overweight or obese. The new program aims to encourage a shift towards a healthier lifestyle.

“While diet and exercise programs are not new, this program tailors the intervention for each individual’s need, which results in more successful outcomes,” said Dr Ristevski. “The next step that moves it out of the hospital and builds capacity within the local community to support health eating and activity is the really exciting part.”’

Participants include those with existing as well as newly diagnosed cancer. At the moment they are invited onto the program by their oncologist. Each person sees a hospital-based dietitian first who provides tailored coaching on a healthy diet. Next, they see an exercise physiologist, also hospital-based, who provides tailored coaching on exercise. Once they’ve been through the hospital-based coaching, they will be linked with community services for ongoing support. This might include local walking or bike riding groups for example. Information hubs in community centres such as the library are also being established.

The second aspect of the project is connecting with GPs through the Gippsland PHN to upskill them to refer participants to the program. GPs are well placed to identify risks factors among cancer survivors. They will be able to refer patients to sessions through a chronic disease management plan .

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