Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA (AOWA) provides self-management programs for consumers living with arthritis. The programs consist of six classes held over six weeks. Facilitators lead the classes and help participants to identify high-value care options and empower them with “how-to” skills, based on scientifically evidenced ways to manage their Osteoarthritis (OA), Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA), Psoriatic Arthritis (PsA) or Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS). These programs encourage interaction with others facing similar health-related challenges and enable health goal setting in a friendly, small group environment.
Keeping current with arthritis evidence
AOWA’s programs were originally created over fifteen years ago and have successfully helped people better manage their arthritis. However, as new evidence has emerged over the years, it was time to update the programs. AOWA knew that this would be a significant program of work to take on, so they employed a health professional with project management skills in June 2019 to lead the work.
Guided by a Steering Committee and supported by existing AOWA staff and a volunteer working group, the project commenced with the key objective of overhauling the programs. Through the team’s tireless efforts, the program materials were reviewed, updated, and polished. This was an extensive exercise as over 350’s relevant scientific paper references were embedded.
In addition, the OA knee program was reconfigured and expanded to include OA of any joint. This expansion has improved access to AOWA services for people living with OA – regardless of which joint/s is affected. The programs were renamed to ‘Arthritis KEYS program’, an acronym derived from the program’s objective: Knowledge Enhances Your Skills. The affordable KEYS programs are delivered as small group classes, either online or in-person at various locations.
Investing in service quality
Facilitators who lead the program are all currently registered health professionals or have a background as a trained health professional. To support the facilitators in their role and ensure a high-quality learning experience for consumers, AOWA embarked on a second project in July 2020. This project will design a training program that all facilitators will undertake before independently leading the KEYS programs. For this project, the training pathway will be redesigned to ensure that quality standards are achieved and upheld, and that training is efficient and utilises modern online learning modalities.
It has been a pleasure working in the Project Manager role. Despite several challenges along the way, including the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic mid-project, the AOWA team and their support networks have a great “can-do” attitude and spirit.
In recognising the enormous value that AOWA volunteers bring to the organisation, a volunteer stream has opened for people to assist facilitators in delivering the KEYS programs with activities such as: distributing AOWA resources, sharing lived experience of arthritis, helping with group dynamics, and interacting with participants with empathy and understanding.