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Take Charge of Your Health

NCOA and other organizations such as the National Health Council—whose core membership includes about 50 of the nation's leading patient-advocacy groups—are lobbying hard to ensure that the health care reform bill of 2009 addresses the needs of people with chronic illnesses.

In the meantime, at Stanford University, Kate Lorig and her Patient Education Research Group push on, training new workshop leaders (5,000 so far) around the country. Also in development are disease-specific (cancer, diabetes) versions of the program.

On a blazing-hot Wednesday afternoon in September, at a senior center in Van Nuys, California, a CDSMP workshop is in progress. Another crucial element responsible for the program's success soon becomes clear: the knowledge and empathy of workshop leaders, one of whom, on this day, is Sharon Janis, the woman who lost both her father and mother to chronic illness.

Recruited and trained as a workshop leader after she completed her own training, Janis continues to adhere to her Action Plan, working out at the gym most mornings and cutting out sweets and other high-calorie fare. So far she has lost 80 pounds—and she's determined to lose 30 more.

"I have the attitude that I'm going to live a good, long life even with diabetes," says Janis. She plans on traveling again—first to Israel, then a return to Paris. Only next time, she continues, "I won't have to worry about my health getting in the way."

Mary A. Fischer, a writer in Los Angeles, last wrote for this magazine about biologic drugs (November-December 2009).

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