Just When Needed It Most, Community-based Organizations Forced to Cancel Peer Workshops

By Katy Plant

In this newsletter and many other forums, we have shared the impact peer-driven self-management support has had to increase self-efficacy, reduce anxiety, and improve outcomes.  With COVID-19 both exacerbating fears of co-morbid conditions and creating its own challenges through shelter-at-home, this kind of support is needed now more than ever.  Unfortunately, in the several weeks since  the start of the COVID-19 crisis, we have heard from hundreds of organizations who were forced to cancel events and programs across the Unites States. Among these cancelled services, have been hundreds of in-person self-management workshops called the Chronic Disease Self-Management program (CDSMP). Communities, and disproportionately seniors, have come to rely on these programs; over the last 10 years community-based organizations across the country have offered more than 25,000 in-person workshops.


For most of the organizations, it is in their DNA to offer self-management workshops.  So when faced with the likelihood of having to cancel a needed service that can be an antidote to the depression, anxiety, and loneliness we are all feeling from the requirement to avoid contact with others, these organizations thought outside the community-based delivery box .  Many started to ask if they could still run workshops, and if not, how they could support their populations.  We are Canary Health were starting to think about the same challenge and the opportunity presented by digital to provide these services.  We feel so fortunate that we are part of a conversation with so many colleagues on these topics.


And while the basics of the solution – invite participants who would have enrolled in an in-person workshop to join an online Better Choices, Better Health® workshop instead – were relatively apparent, the details of how to execute rapidly and at scale are quite complex. So with our colleagues we have deployed our approach to framing challenges to opportunities and asked the question, How Might We…?


Over the last week, this How Might We brainstorm has unfolded into several opportunities that will allow organizations to still provide this valuable service. Last week we hosted a webinar with over 175 organizations across the country who are interested in provided online seats to what were originally face to face workshops. We heard that organizations needed to be able to offer as few as 25 seats to up to 1000 or more depending on the size of the organization.  In some cases the organizations would need help with funding, especially if their funding for in-person delivery was based on specific grants.  Organizations were also interested in keeping their community workshop leaders engaged in self-management.  In response to these requests, we have put together the start of a toolkit with information that organizations who are in the position of canceling in-person workshops can use if they are interested in offering online seats instead. Our toolkit includes:


  1. Video with Link to a Webinar we Hosted on the Topic
  2. Community Based Organization Grant Template
  3. Better Choices, Better Health webinar Q&A
  4. Better Choices, Better Health Facilitator Training Application


Canary Health is committed to supporting this endeavor and collaborating to make an impact.  We are waiving part of our fees and discounting our costs as much as possible.  We are collaborating to write grants and engage community-based facilitators. Contact Katy Plant at


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