Tarleton, Texas Health to celebrate first anniversary of Better Breathers Club

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Better Breathers Club clients at the Texas Health Resources Outpatient Center are assisted by both undergraduate and graduate students from Tarleton's Clinical Exercise Research Facility (CERF), who create, review and revise individual exercise programs based on the specific chronic conditions of the given patient.

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STEPHENVILLE (May 7, 2015) — Tarleton State University’s Clinical Exercise Research Facility (CERF) and Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital-Stephenville will celebrate the one-year anniversary of the Better Breathers Club’s (BBC) founding, a unique collaborative initiative that assists citizens in the community with chronic cardiac and lung disorders.

The public is invited to attend the Better Breathers Club’s celebration on Friday, May 8, beginning at 10 a.m., in the Outpatient Center at Texas Health Stephenville, 140 River North Blvd.

The BBC is a rural-based, cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program founded two years ago as part of a collaboration between Texas Health Resources and the Tarleton Department of Kinesiology’s CERF. The program’s mission is to assist adults with chronic cardiac, lung and metabolic disorders such as congestive heart failure, heart attack, heart-related surgeries, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, recurrent pneumonia, diabetes and obesity.

Offered Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 7-10 a.m. at the Outpatient Center, the BBC has successfully grown due to Tarleton’s partnership with Texas Health Resources.

In 2010, Texas Health Resources BBC partnered with Tarleton’s CERF to offer an affordable and supervised exercise rehabilitation program for area residents.

Prior to this partnership, participants involved in a supervised exercise program, or cardiopulmonary rehabilitation program, drove a minimum of 30 minutes to receive this type of service. In many cases, those programs were overcrowded, requiring an even longer drive to participate in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation.

Since its inception, the BBC has grown from a few participants per session in April 2014 to nearly two dozen per session, said Dr. Jennifer Blevins, associate professor of kinesiology and co-director of student research and creative activities at Tarleton. “We’ve had 22 participants per session on several occasions this past month and this is more than the average at the sister hospital in Azle, which offers two sessions per day,” she said. “Currently, we have at least 15 additional participants in the queue to get into the program.”

Both undergraduate and graduate Tarleton kinesiology students, supervised by Blevins, are responsible for assessing resting and exercise vital measures, assisting with exercise programming and supervising the clients throughout their exercise sessions. Dr. Jennifer Lancaster, also from the Tarleton Department of Kinesiology, supervises students in the sports medicine program to perform basic musculoskeletal evaluations and provide corrective exercises for participants.

“Most of the students are preparing for careers in cardiac rehabilitation, adult fitness and various types of allied health fields, including physician’s assistant and physical therapy,” said Blevins. “The commitment of the faculty and students is truly key to the success of the Better Breathers program. The interaction provided by this experience between students, clients, faculty and other health care workers, including Brian Andrews, director of cardiopulmonary services, is invaluable and wouldn’t be possible if all these players were not involved. This partnership has been fulfilling and inspiring, and one that we want to continue for many years to come.”

When considering a model exercise rehabilitation program, the BBC-CERF alliance embraced four goals: 1) to increase functional capacity and vitality of participants, 2) to improve quality of life for participants, families and students, 3) to advance multidisciplinary educational experience for graduates and undergraduates, and 4) to provide access to affordable, supervised exercise and health care for all residents.

To address these goals, CERF staff creates, reviews and revises individualized exercise programs based on the specific chronic conditions of the given patient. Better Breathers Club participants receive daily measurements of all vitals before and after supervised exercise, including heart rate/ECG, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and blood glucose. Students work individually, and within the group, to assure exercise program compliance.

The alliance is a long-term sustainable health and fitness solution, which addresses health and economic factors while providing students hands-on, real-life experiences in a career-related academic setting, says Blevins. “In addition to learning applied skills, students’ social awareness is improved while students and participants alike develop emotional bonds, promoting accountability as well. Rural communities have extremely limited access for students to engage in these experiences otherwise.”

The BBC-CERF alliance offers a rare opportunity in a rural setting for participants to improve quantity and quality of life. Re-admittance rates for the Stephenville hospital were 12.2 percent in 2014, largely due to a lack of local access to formal, supervised, exercise programs for residents discharged following a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary disease. The participant goal for the program is to reduce hospital re-admittance rates to less than 9.3 percent.

While the program is in its early implementation phase, the positive impact of this program is apparent by examining the main program outcomes through a recent pilot study.

Participants improved their health-related quality of life by 33 percent. Seventy percent of participants improved their health vitality scores by 65 percent. Six-minute walk times improved by a range of 10 to 60 percent. Moreover, 100 percent of participants who achieved 80 percent attendance or better have avoided re-admittance to the emergency room.

Additionally, educational fliers created by students are given to participants on topics ranging from affordable shoes for activity to creative, healthy recipes. The Better Breathers Club facility houses treadmills, indoor/outdoor walking capabilities, stationary bikes, an elliptical machine, arm ergometers and a Nu-Step® machine. Participants also use small dumbbells, a wall-mounted resistance band system and balance exercises to improve balance and muscular endurance.

The Better Breathers Club program is self-pay, with a $10 initial fee and $20 per month per person or $30 per month for a couple. For more information or to register, call 254-965-1516.

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