SEARHC to train WELL-Balanced coaches in Sitka

August 04 2010

Renae Mathson from the SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC) Diabetes Program and Jennifer Young from SEARHC Injury Prevention will offer training in August so volunteer coaches can learn how to teach the WELL-Balanced program in Southeast Alaska communities. The training takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, Aug. 26-27, in the first-floor conference room at the SEARHC Community Health Services building in Sitka. WELL (Wise Elders Living Longer) Balanced is a community intervention program from the National Resource Center on Native American Aging. It is designed to help Native elders improve movement, encourage exercise and help them reduce their risk of falling. WELL-Balanced volunteer coaches learn how to teach the course, how to observe elders’ gaits, train elders how to walk in a safer manner, teach them how to remove tripping hazard from their environment and lead elders in an exercise program with balance training. Once the volunteer coaches complete their training, they will teach a 16-session, eight-week course in their home communities. The eight-week course includes a home safety check, fall risk screening and a home program for use after the course is completed. Elders who complete the course will become more confident in their ability to avoid falls, and that can help them stay active so they lower their risk for diseases such as diabetes, arthritis and hypertension (high blood pressure). “SEARHC has chosen to take an active role in helping our elders learn to remove or fix hazards in their environments, while learning how to exercise to improve their strength and balance,” Renae said. “Exercise has proven to reduce the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, and it reduces the negative effects for those who live with the disease. Our elders are interested in learning ways to take care of themselves so they will be able to encourage their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in their ancestors’ ways.” “What an honor to learn how to work with the elder population to help them learn how to walk in a safe manner,” Jennifer said. “Once an elder falls and breaks a body part, it takes a long time for them to heal. And if the break does not heal right, the pain and suffering the elders go through may lead to death. This training will help injury prevention to better work with our elders and with others who also want to work with elders. I am grateful to learn all I can so I also can give this information to others who work with elders.” Renae and Jennifer plan to train 4-6 volunteer coaches who can take the WELL-Balanced training to Sitka, Kake, Prince of Wales, Angoon and other Southeast communities. If you are interested in learning how to be a volunteer coach, contact SEARHC Community Injury Prevention Coordinator Jennifer Young at 966-8866 or SEARHC Diabetes Health Educator Renae Mathson at 966-8797. To learn more about the WELL-Balanced training, go to