Abilities United Betty Wright Swim Center’s Managing Director, Rho Henry Olaisen, will share the findings and lessons learned from a 2012 post-stroke training course held at the Betty Wright Swim Center, at the Society of Public Health Education’s 64th annual meeting “The Magic of Health Education: Vision, Imagination & Transformation”. Held in Orlando, Florida, the conference caters to more than 400 of the nation’s leading community health leaders from business, industry, and academia.
Rho Henry Olaisen, M.P., who also teaches Healthcare Organization and Administration, and Health Promotion, Planning and Evaluation at San Jose State University’s Department of Health Sciences, will present “Transforming and Strengthening Health Promotion via Interdisciplinary Educational Collaborative: Lessons Learned from a Pilot Program.” The Pilot Program intervention, sponsored by the Palo Alto Medical Foundation, recruited 20 aquatic practitioners, most of them employees of Abilities United, and trained them in core principles of stroke health promotion guidelines and techniques during a four-day course. Focus of the program was to expand knowledge and understanding of the underlying condition, refine skills for communicating with post-stroke patients, address safety concerns, learn precautionary protocols for working with post-stroke survivors and gain awareness of environmental factors – such as healthcare costs, transportation, caregiver support– affecting clinical outcomes and progress. The course was led by an interprofessional faculty with backgrounds in nursing as well as physical, occupational, speech and recreational therapy. This group of experts delivered education in both traditional and non-traditional formats, including lectures, problem-based learning, integrated reflection, and teamwork.
Contributing to the success of the program were community collaborators– Pacific Stroke Association, El Camino Hospital, Hydro Institute, and REACH Fitnee—and patients and their caregivers, who actively participated in every in-water session.
“The level of community-based collaboration, from its infancy through successful completion, that this project embraced illustrates the vast potential of this approach with regard to a new model of delivery of care to those recovering from stroke,” commented Alissa Shaw, project collaborator with the Peninsula Stroke Association.
Patient volunteers were instrumental in conveying to the student practitioners their needs and desired outcomes for an interactive and dynamic aquatic program. They helped enlighten students on the value and importance of working collaboratively with patients and participants for the most holistic long-term health outcomes.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke[1]  in the United States more than 700,000 people have a stroke each year, and approximately two-thirds of these individuals survive and require rehabilitation. Typical rehabilitation goals include regaining independence and achieving long-term quality of life. These goals can be attained by relearning skills such as leg movement, coordination, and ability to complete complex tasks. Practicing skills repetition in a comfortable environment such as warm water, with the guidance of trained therapists, is a critical step on the path to recovering function and independence.

To reach the goal of being a “National Health & Wellness Aquatic Therapy Leader by 2014”, the Betty Wright Swim Center at Abilities United delivers an ongoing program of evidence-based aquatic therapy trainings for health and fitness professionals.

In January 2013 the Betty Wright Swim Center delivered a second intervention, building upon lessons learned in the 2012 course, during a week-long training program in Adapted Aquatics for children with disabilities. In August 2013, the center–again in collaboration with community alliances and partners–will offer a four-day interprofessional workshop about advancing competency in working effectively with patients who have Parkinson’s disease.

Written by Lucia Panini, Marketing and Communications Manager, Abilities United Aquatic Services.