Better Breathing Hawke's Bay programme lead Eileen Hall. Photo / Supplied
The Hawke's Bay District Health Board is funding a better breathing course for heart failure patients that could have them half as likely to end up in hospital.
Over an 18-month pilot, Better Breathing Hawke's Bay incorporated 59 heart failure patients with breathing difficulties into the DHB's pulmonary rehabilitation programme, normally delivered to chronic respiratory disease patients.
DHB planning, funding and performance executive director Emma Foster said an audit of the pilot showed participants had reduced breathlessness and improved fitness, as well as improved self-management skills and health literacy.
"Equipped with these skills, they were about 50 per cent less likely to present to hospital," she said.
Participants in the pilot, completed earlier this year, attended twice-weekly, two-hour group sessions focused on exercise and education over a period of eight weeks.
Better Breathing programme lead Eileen Hall said internationally accredited assessment tools showed participants had an improved quality of life, among other health outcomes.
"Participants also benefited from social interactions with others who have the same challenges, with some participants even forming their own support networks," she said.
Hall said many people experiencing breathlessness need to improve their exercise tolerance.
"It's very slow and it's very patient dictated, but what we find is that over the eight weeks people can do more exercise, for longer, and become more independent and self-confident," she said.
The DHB runs group sessions in Napier, Hastings, Central Hawkes' Bay, Wairoa and virtually via Zoom. Group sizes are limited to 20.
General practice or specialist teams can refer heart or respiratory disease patients with reduced exercise tolerance, or those who have difficulty coping with daily activities due to breathlessness, to the programme.