In 2016 Doctors’ Health Fund introduced the Osteoarthritis Healthy Weight For Life program to eligible members with hospitals and extras cover, and it has been achieving impressive results for participating members. 

The 18 week program delivered by Prima Health Solutions takes a multidisciplinary approach by combining diet, muscle strengthening, range of motion exercise, pain management, education and behavioural coaching to assist people with osteoarthritis of the knee and hip. The clinical outcomes of the program have been published internationally.  

We spoke with Mrs Sandi Lyons, a member of the Fund for 37 years and recent “graduate” of the program about her experience.

Q: Tell us about the challenges associated with having osteoarthritis?
I’m probably more fortunate than most with Grade 4 osteoarthritis in that I don’t feel a lot of pain in my day to day living. For quite a while I wasn’t happy to go walking for exercise as my tolerance for any prolonged distance was limited by knee pain. This made weight control difficult and more dependent on diet. I have also needed to be very careful when I twist and do things like gardening.

Q: Have you tried other programs in the past?
I joined Weight Watchers back in the 70s with three friends who I worked with at our local hospital. It was very different then, I was young, had no arthritis and I walked a lot and consequently had very good results. I’ve tried Weight Watchers since with limited success.

Q: What was your experience of the program like? What kind of support did you receive?
It was fantastic. Firstly you are sent a kit with a weekly guide, an ice pack, an elastic band for your exercises, a tape measure and a shake container. The guide is a good read and includes information on goal setting, healthy eating and physical activity, building confidence with planning meals and snacks, healthy cooking and motivation.

As part of the program you order flavoured shakes for breakfast and soups for lunch. I had contact with an occupational therapist via the internet or SMS who was on hand to help me achieve my goals. Every week you sign in online to record your weight and waist measurement. 

The strengthening exercises are excellent and I found this a vital part of the program.

Q: What was the biggest challenge you found while doing the program?
There were times during the program when after losing some weight, things would just plateau. It can be demotivating when you are doing everything correctly and the scales stay the same. That’s when the occupational therapists were fantastic – I’d drop them a note via the website and soon had a reply or they would SMS or give me a call.

Q: Did you achieve the intended results?
Yes, I lost nearly 10 kilograms over the 18 weeks which was a true success, but the great thing is how I’ve kept it off since then. 

Q. So the program prepared you for managing your health after the program finished?
It did. The guide is broken into phases and continues past the 18 weeks. It covers the factors you need to be aware of to stay on top of your weight such as staying motivated and how stress can impact eating habits. I’m continuing to use the soups and shakes – you can order more if you find them useful. 

Q. Your spouse is a (retired) doctor, what’s his perspective on the program?
Bill is an avid reader and he looked up the ingredients in the soups and shakes and noted they are biochemically well balanced. He says with a chuckle that when I’m on a diet, he’s on a diet, but admits his meals are just as tasty.

Q. Would you recommend this program to other people? 
Absolutely, I’m very thankful to the Doctors’ Health Fund for making this possible for people with osteoarthritis. Not just the diet but the exercise regime is excellent.

For more information about the Osteoarthritis Healthy Weight For Life program, visit our website.