Acquiring the skills and confidence to manage your illness better – that’s the overall goal of the HSE Living Well programme. It’s a free, evidence-based group self-management programme for adults with long-term conditions and carers will find it helpful too.

But what are the more specific benefits?

Dietitian Ruth Reidy is self-management support (SMS) co-ordinator with HSE Midwest Community Healthcare and she lists 10 good reasons:

1 Peer support: you spend time with others who also live with long-term health conditions. The saying goes that “a problem shared is a problem halved” and people really enjoy and benefit from meeting others and sharing experiences of what life is like for them with their condition.

2 Free service: each session is 2.5 hours, for six weeks and excellent resources are provided including a book called Living a Healthy Life with Chronic Conditions.

3 Relevant and useful topics are covered.

4 Practical skills developed: the programme supports people to develop practical skills such as setting goals to improve health (?healthy eating, increasing physical activity, getting better sleep), and action planning to achieve these goals.

5 Improves confidence: the programme aims to increase an individual’s confidence to self-manage. It covers important topics such as:

  • Communicating effectively with healthcare professionals.
  • Accessing and evaluating health information.
  • Adopting positive health behaviours.
  • Managing medication.
  • Utilising resources in the community.
  • Managing the difficult emotions that can arise when living with a long-term health condition.In this way participants grow in confidence over the six-week programme as they feel more equipped to look after their condition and improve their health overall.
  • 6 Improved competence and confidence using technology if attending online: people connect online and get support from the group from the comfort of their own home.

    7 Awareness of wider healthcare supports available: each week the facilitators inform the group about other supports, relevant to the topic, which are available, such as the quit smoking services, the free online stress control classes, healthy food made easy nutrition and cooking programme, national and local support groups for different conditions and many other resources.

    8 Better communication with your healthcare professionals: week four covers how communication can be improved with healthcare professionals and family members and discusses tools that can be used.

    9 Explains where best to get trustworthy and reliable information when searching about your health condition on the internet.

    10 Demonstrates self-management tools throughout the six-week programme to ensure you benefit from the session. For example, the ‘better breathing’ session.

    Why it has been introduced

    Ruth says: “In a nutshell, the Living Well programme helps you develop techniques to overcome anxiety, fear and depression by using tools like distraction, positive thinking and self-talk, guided imagery and relaxation techniques. These tools help clear your mind, positively shift your emotions and help reduce tension and stress.”

    People in Ireland are living longer and we are living with increased levels of chronic disease, making a programme like this necessary.

    Ruth says: “The number of people aged 50 years and older is projected to rise from approximately 1.5m in 2019 to over 2m by 2030*, so we will see a rise in the incidence of chronic disease too, from approximately 830,000 in 2019 to almost 1.1m by 2030**.

    “With this in mind, many people need to have the skills and confidence to manage their chronic condition and the Living Well Programme that was originally developed by the School of Medicine, Stanford University in USA is part of that.”

    *Projected by Central Statistics Office

    **Based on analysis of TILDA data, 2018.

    Online or face-to-face

    The programme is available both online and face-to-face because HSE research shows that both options work well.

    “It’s great that the choice is there and people choose what’s right for them,” Ruth says.

    “Some people remain nervous about groups because of COVID-19 and may choose to do the online programme. Equally, others enjoy the social side of the group sessions, having missed this during the COVID-19 lockdowns, and so prefer the group sessions, with or without their mask.

    “For the face-to-face sessions, we provide hand sanitiser, masks if requested, ventilate the room and pick rooms that are big enough to ensure space between the chairs,” she says.

    So, what happens at a typical meeting?

    Expect to see two facilitators for each session. One of them will have lived experience of a chronic condition. The programme is structured so that each week there are agenda items (see list below).

    Ruth says: “While the agenda is structured, the workshops are delivered in a relaxed and friendly manner. Group discussions on key topics each week are part of the session and a key part of Living Well is setting goals. Each week participants learn how to reach these goals by making an action plan. They also get support from the group to problem solve.”

    “The programme is very interactive and participants have ample opportunities to share their own experiences, which may help other people on the programme,” she says.

    Breakout sessions are facilitated where participants work in small groups on various self-management topics and report back to the main group on what they are comfortable sharing.

    “This is a relaxed and supportive group and there’s no pressure on anybody,” she adds.


    Week 1

  • Using your mind to manage symptoms.
  • Fatigue and getting a good night’s sleep.
  • Introduction to action plans.
  • Week 2

  • Dealing with difficult emotions.
  • Physical activity, exercise, preventing falls.
  • Week 3

  • Decision-making.
  • Pain management.
  • Healthy eating.
  • Week 4

  • Better breathing.
  • Reading food labels.
  • Communication skills.
  • Week 5

  • Medication management.
  • Positive thinking, dealing with low mood and feelings of depression.
  • Week 6

  • Making informed treatment decisions.
  • Planning for the future.
  • Participant feedback

    “I learned a lot of new things which I wouldn’t have known otherwise. It gave me a chance to witness how other participants cope with similar worrisome challenges in life.”

    “My confidence has increased and I feel I am now able to manage my condition better.”

    “Overall, I enjoyed participating in the Living Well programme. I think both facilitators did an excellent job presenting the course. Also meeting new people and hearing how they cope with their long-term illness has given me the confidence to achieve any goals I set in the future.”

    Useful links

    Further information about the programme (including the launch video and information on how to register and where a programme is being held near you) can be found on

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