February 18, 2016

Western Australia Lung Leaders Network established

Jenni Ibrahim, Coordinator, L I F E; Convenor, WA Lung Leaders Network

WA Lung Leaders Workshop 600px

In July 2015, the Lung Information & Friendship for Everyone (L I F E) support group facilitated a meeting of the Western Australia (WA) respiratory support group leaders who came together to share experiences and ideas of running a group. There are currently 10 groups in WA, three of them in country WA (Geraldton, Bunbury and Northam), and two new groups are in the process of forming or reforming.

Each leader outlined what was going well, why people came, and what the challenges were. Each group has
its own personality and activities, for example, Heavy Breathers meets weekly for a walk followed by coffee and a chat whereas Pulmonary Hypertension WA promotes awareness of this rare lung disease and meets six times
a year. A new group is forming to support those diagnosed with lung cancer and another group is trying to reform after becoming inactive following the death of its founder.

We shared the resources that each tapped into including websites, DVDs, grant opportunities, brochures, speakers and topics. A database of speakers and topics is being compiled to provide ideas and contact details for leaders organising speaker programs. The many excellent resources provided by Lung Foundation Australia were well known to all groups, but some other resources were not.

Those who attended were keen to meet again, perhaps twice a year and so the WA Lung Leaders Network was born – a support group for the support group leaders, if you like. A small grant was obtained from ConnectGroups, the peak body for self-help groups in WA to enable the purchase of a laptop to use at meetings, as well as reimbursement of parking costs and petrol expenses for the three country groups. The Institute for Respiratory Health (formerly the Lung Institute of WA) generously provided a meeting venue and lunch for the two Workshops held so far.

At the second meeting in November 2015, there was a workshop discussion on self-management. How can we as leaders help our members to be more active managers of our personal health? How can we help our members to get the most out of interactions with our health professionals?

So far, leaders from 11 of the 12 groups have expressed interest in taking part, and nine have actually taken part in one or both of the workshops. Due to our busy lives and own health issues it is quite a challenge to find a day that suits everyone. Succession planning is important for all of us. How does our group have a life beyond our own, as leader? As the first respiratory support group in Australia, L I F E has been operating since 1992 and has had only two leaders. Not all groups can be as lucky.

At the next workshop, to be held in April 2016, self-management will be further explored. We will look in more detail at the various self-management resources – videos, brochures and posters. Many groups do not have access to audio-visual equipment or internet at their meeting venues to show DVDs or YouTube videos. How can they make use of these excellent resources?