Whānau pick up on osteoarthritis pilot

27 February 2018

ALL Annette Ransley wanted was for the pain to go away but she got more than that. The osteoarthritis sufferer has now thrown away her walking stick and the prospect of hip surgery is now increasingly remote.

Annette is one of more than 140 people to have so far taken part in a Turanga Health-hosted outreach programme to do just what Annette has achieved: manage their osteoarthritis to the point where hip or knee surgery may be avoided.

Funded by the Ministry of Health and run by Hauora Tairāwhiti, the two-year pilot programme – started in January 2017 -- saw physiotherapist Samantha Henderson-Genefaas run classes at both Gisborne Hospital and Turanga Health for clients referred by their GPs.

And this year it all continues with senior therapist Paula Bruce taking the reins while Sam is on maternity leave.

“The programme is aimed at people with mild/moderate hip or knee osteoarthritis with the intent of reducing pain and improving function and to prevent or delay the need for surgery,” Paula says.

“Though many clients are reluctant to go to the doctor, letting the GP know about pain or stiffness in your hip or knee means we can get started with treatment early.

“Once that starts, our focus is on the three key treatments of exercise, education, and maintaining a healthy weight.”

The programme runs in six weeks blocks and consists of weekly exercise classes, sessions about how best to manage osteoarthritis, and an education component with input from a dietitian, a pharmacist and diabetes and gout educator.

“Times are flexible with options during the day and after hours and Tūranga Health kaiawhina can offer transport to and from classes,” says Paula.

And once the six-week period is over, it doesn't have to end there: clients are often referred on to other Turanga Health programmes or given green prescriptions so they can build on the good work they have done.

“The goal is to find the types of activity people enjoy so they can make long-term lifestyle changes,” she says. “Clients are then followed up at three and 12 months to check on their progress.”

The pilot programme will continue until the end of 2018 with the aim of seeing 288 people over this period.

“Having it delivered through Turanga Health is a huge bonus as they are community-based and whanau-focused so people often see it as a place of 'wellness', rather than one of ill health,” Paula says.

“Seeing people feeling much better in their symptoms and having more mobility with less pain is hugely rewarding. And the best thing is that they are empowered by having the right tools to look after themselves.”

For her part, Annette says that after putting up with a painful hip for years, the six-week programme gave her an exercise regime tailored just for her . . . and it's working.

“Six weeks is a big commitment but I managed to stick to it because I thought it was important,” she says. “Before, if my hip gave out I would fall but now I have the strength in my legs to avoid that. The help we have had is awesome and I’m so grateful for that.”

And her classmate and line-dancing buddy, Dawn Wihongi, has made similar progress, ditching the walking frame she used when an osteoarthritic hip stole her mobility.

Dawn didn't see herself as a “gym bunny” but now she loves being in an environment with so much support and encouragement and is stoked to have delayed a planned hip operation.

“My family thinks I am doing wonders so I'm really proud of myself,” she says. “If anyone else has the opportunity to join the programme I would say get in there. It's good for you and good for your body. It's all good!”

Samantha Henderson-Genefaas, Dawn Wihongi, Annette Ransley

Samantha Henderson-Genefaas, Dawn Wihongi, Annette Ransley