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Local grants boost chronic illness management program for seniors

Posted by Jaclyn Reiss  November 26, 2013 04:29 PM

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Local and regional foundations are giving $1.3 million in grants to boost a program that offers senior citizens classes and workshops on managing their chronic diseases through lifestyle changes -- an initiative that would lower overall healthcare costs, organizers said.

Watertown-based Tufts Health Plan Foundation and the New York City-based John A. Hartford Foundation are collectively giving $1.3 million in grants over three years to the Massachusetts Healthy Living Center of Excellence. The program, a collaboration between medical provider Hebrew Senior Life and service provider Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, combines expertise from both sides to encourage older adults to actively manage their health.

With the grants helping the program expand, organizers say they hope the workshops will both inspire seniors to improve their health, which would also lead to lower healthcare costs across the state.

“With all eyes on health care reform, this new model has the potential to set the stage for national change in the way health care is delivered and embraced.”said Jim Roosevelt, president of the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and CEO of Tufts Health Plan in a statement.

Organizers said they hope the program's expansion will also make it easier for doctors to recommend workshops on issues like diabetes self-management or healthy eating classes to their patients.

This education would then lead to seniors making lifestyle and behavior changes that improve their chronic conditions, they said.

The Healthy Living Center program was previously funded through federal and state grants including start-up funding from the National Council on Aging in collaboration with the Massachusetts departments on public health and elder affairs.

Citing data recently released by the US Centers for Disease Control, officials said in a statement that two of three older Americans have a chronic illness, and that 95 percent of healthcare funds for older adults is spent on these chronic diseases.

For more information, visit Tufts Health Plan Foundation's website.

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Jaclyn Reiss can be reached at jaclyn.reiss@globe.com

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