Combating chronic illness: Utah County takes another step towards wellness

Utah County's wellness series focuses on combating chronic illness, which afflicts roughly half of all American adults. (iStock photo)
Utah County’s wellness series focuses on combating chronic illness, which afflicts roughly half of all American adults. (iStock photo)

The Utah County Health Department, Utah Arthritis Program and Mountainlands Association partnered to announce a new six class self-management series, “Living Well with Chronic Conditions,” earlier this month.

The classes are designed to benefit those with Chronic Conditions such as cancer, heart disease, asthma, arthritis, emphysema, depression and chronic pain. Topics will include “improving communication with family; techniques to combat frustration, fatigue and pain; appropriate physical and mental exercise; appropriate use of medications; correct nutrition and productive ways of measuring the success of new treatments,” according to the joint release.

Bret Huffaker, 22, a geology major at UVU said his familly’s experience with chronic illness leads him to believe that the self-management series would benefit Utah County.

“My grandma lived with us for about two years… she suffered from dementia,” Huffaker said. “After time … it became very difficult to care for her.”

Huffaker described the experience as a “family effort”, for the two years that his parents and 3 siblings helped his grandmother perform simple daily activities.

He later heard about the “Living Well with Chronic Conditions” on the internet.

“That sounds like it would have been very beneficial to our family” Huffaker said.

In America, seven out of ten deaths each year can be linked to chronic disease. More than 50 percent of American adults suffer from some type of chronic illness. About one-fourth of people who have chronic conditions are limited in their daily activities, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Arthritis is the most common cause of disability, limiting over 20 million Americans.

Ruth Ann Davis, a school teacher in Davis County, has taken care of her sick husband for over eight years; he has suffered many chronic illnesses such as scoliosis, severe arthritis, dementia, diabetes, kidney disease, chronic congestive heart failure and pulmonary embolism. She was enthusiastic the new series will help those in similar situations find someone to relate to.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Davis said. “I think it would be very beneficial for people to be able to talk with others in the same boat as them.”

The CDC recommends several ways to prevent or minimize the effects of chronic illness, including exercise (preferably aerobic activity) for at least 30 minutes per day, five days per week and eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day.The CDC also strongly discourages smoking. Lung cancer in men and women is 13 times more likely than in someone who does not smoke.

The workshops will be held in accessible locations such as churches, senior centers, libraries and hospitals. Individuals with chronic disease themselves  who have found success in certain wellness practices will run each session.

The series begins Thursday  May 16th at 5:30 p.m. at the Utah County Health and Justice Building, and will run each week through June 13th. For further details on classes offered by the Utah County Health Department, call Marla at 801-851-7082 or visit



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