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Self-help for health

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

Living with a physical or mental challenge can be a huge health barrier – and Masterton’s Donna Laing knows this first-hand, being legally blind.

Her degenerative vision disorder, called Retinitis Pigmantosa is “a fickle and frustrating disease”, leaving her with 5 degrees of sight in her left eye, and 15 degrees in her right.

However, despite her physical challenge, Mrs Laing is the manager of the Masterton Family Education and Support Centre, and is running for Masterton District Council.

She said life was a “bit tougher” being legally blind, “with lots of planning and considerations to be had”.

She is also one of the newest facilitators of a free health self-management course designed by Stanford University, after she saw results for herself as a participant.

“Any challenge you are dealing with long-term, this course can help with,” Mrs Laing said.

The course, run by Compass Health, aims to help Wairarapa people manage long-term health conditions by teaching techniques that work for health conditions including diabetes, heart condition, arthritis, asthma, high blood pressure, anxiety, chronic pain, and depression.

It was developed with input from clinical psychologists and medical doctors, and is 2.5 hours per week for seven weeks.

Kath Tomlinson, health promoter from Compass Health, said the self-management course would benefit thousands of people in Wairarapa, just as it benefitted Mrs Laing.

It will run from October 18 to November 29 with daytime and evening sessions.

“By the end of the course, people feel like they can achieve things again,” Mrs Tomlinson said.

“In the course, we cover topics like relaxation, the power of your mind, controlling your thoughts, communication skills, all those sorts of things.

“A really big part of managing your health is being able to explain to other people how you’re feeling so that they can help you.”

She said the course was made free to participants by Compass Health – “because if people can manage their health better, then there’s going to be less cost to the health system”.


*To enrol in the course, email [email protected] or call Compass Health, 0508 697 626. Donna Laing’s journey can be followed through her online blog, dmlaing.blogspot.co.nz.


Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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