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Self-management refers to all the things people do to help themselves to live a better, more fulfilling life despite disability or long-term health conditions. Self-management is about having the right tools, skills and support to live well.

RTRU researchers are exploring how people with disabilities can live life to its fullest in spite of their disability. As an interdisciplinary group, including people living with disability, our research into self-management stretches across diverse health and cultural populations and issues. We welcome interest in collaborating or studying with us. Our research on self-management is grouped into three themes:

1. Doing well: What works for me

Doing Well research explores how people and their families have coped with disabling health conditions. Areas of research include coping strategies and how these have been used to shape more fulfilling lives in relation to intimate relationships for people with multiple sclerosis, supporting children with disability and their families, recovery from traumatic brain injury and stroke, maintaining employment and minimising secondary effects of disability such as pain and fatigue.

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2. Access & Adherence: Getting help when I need it


Sometimes learning to self-manage disability is easier with specialist help for a while to better understand the health condition, or learn particular skills and strategies. Specialist services draw on a range of interventions when deciding how best to people to learn self-management skills. And consumers of services go through a decision making process when deciding which types of services (or interventions) they want to try, or how much they will use the strategies they are taught. At the RTRU we are interested in understanding what types of services people can access in New Zealand and if access meets demand. We are also interested in how people with disability make decisions about the services they seek and value, particularly in relation to culturally-related needs of Maori. Our work in this area also overlaps with our Digital Technology Rehabilitation research hub.

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Adherence to an intervention refers to how much we use what we have learnt to self-manage our health or disability issue. It also refers to how well a health professional adheres to the guidelines in delivering an intervention. Adherence is an important part of gaining the benefits of any self-management strategy yet adherence is well known to be difficult to keep up for both health professionals and health consumers.

At the RTRU we are interested in improving knowledge of what helps people to adhere to self-management strategies and how well interventions are delivered by health professionals. RTRU researchers have worked with others to design measurement tools of adherence to interventions targeting pelvic floor training, gout medication, motivational interviewing and the delivery of Occupational Performance Coaching by health professionals.

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3. The Lived Experience: How I see it

Self-management research would be incomplete without the experience and insights of those who live with disability. RTRU researchers have partnered with consumers of rehabilitation, on their experiences and perspectives of living with disability, managing its challenges and engaging in interventions. We have learnt that rural workers with low back pain continue to work, despite the pain through actively problem solving and out of a love of the outdoors. People with multiple sclerosis, shared that the experience of work was dominated by their ability manage fatigue which informed clearer ways for health professionals to support their employment. Two years after head injury, adults described how pervasive sleep and fatigue issues were across all aspects of life. Mothers' of children with neuro-disabilities described persisting with very challenging situations following Occupational Performance Coaching because the goals being addressed were so important to them. Women prescribed pelvic floor training for stress incontinence and pelvic prolapse revealed the influence of family on their adherence to exercises.

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