Victoria Health Co-operative- British Columbia- hans kai logoHans Kai™ (“group learning”) is a wellness program,  run in a peer supported environment, equipping individuals to take the lead in achieving and maintaining their own optimal health.

Hans Kai™ was developed in Japan where there are currently over 25,000 groups, to help people focus on enhancing their health knowledge, their ability to monitor their own basic health indicators, and their wellness-focused behaviours.  By operating in a peer-supported environment Hans Kai™ creates or builds on social connections. As stated by the World Health Organization, these social connections are the primary factor in wellness.  Hans Kai™ was brought to Canada by Nor’West Co-op in Winnipeg and Robert Cliche Co-op in Québec.  It is available across and beyond Canada through co-ops that are members of the Health Care Co-op Federation of Canada.

Ideally the program starts with 8 – 12 people in reasonably good health who already know each other or have some mutual interests.  Using the Hans Kai™ kit and training materials they complete a Hans Kai™ Health School, a series of 8 sessions, 2 hours each:  introduction and goal setting session; learning about health indicators (blood pressure, blood sugar, weight, and waist circumference) ; learning how to check health indicators; managing sleep and stress; nutrition; physical activity plans; community resources, boundaries and consensus decision making.  In the eighth meeting the participants practice working as a Hans Kai™ group.  Specialized versions are available for Youth (with a focus on mental health), GBLTQ and workplace groups.

After the Hans Kai™ Health School, the group meets monthly (or other if dictated by their schedules) using the materials prepared by Nor’West.  Groups are self-directed with participants deciding collectively how their group runs. Every Hans Kai™ meeting, whether stand-alone or as part of a group’s regular program,  must include the four core activities:  social interaction, monitoring health indicators, healthy snack, physical activity.  Groups such as work-place, Legion, GBLT, youth, church, sports, etc can modify the materials in consultation with NorWest.  NorWest Hans Kai™ trainers and regional leads are always available to support groups as needed.

Hans Kai™ in Winnipeg is a research project measuring both knowledge of and actual changes in physical health, nutrition, physical activity, social supports, mental health, sleep and stress management behaviour as a result of participating in Hans Kai™.  Sessions during which an MD or NP meets independently with each participant, can generally be billed as a Group Visit under provincial health insurance programs.

You can watch an informative video here.

Hans Kai™  Youth, Hans for Trans, Hans for Senior Lesbians………

Hans Kai™  Youth is being used in several versions to respond to the needs of children and teens.  The focus is emotional well being.  The aim is to assist the young participants to identify the range of behaviours and emotions that are a normal part of growing up.  Based on this the participants can be pro-active in remaining in this “safe zone” and be aware when they or others are heading into areas that could be dangerous.  Further, they know how to obtain help.  All of this is supported by adults who are also equipped by the program with an understanding and tools to identify danger signs and obtain help.  The program is not designed to treat mental illness but to either deflect it or find professional help.

As with all Hans Kai™ , the youth version is most effective with established groups of young people who can integrate it into their activities on a regular basis.  After-school groups, sports teams, church youth groups, school wellness programs, parent-child groups are all appropriate.  Local legal requirements for supervision must be met whether through the involvement of teachers, counselors etc.

Hans Kai™  Youth topics include:   Teen reproductive health; Communications and relationships; Eating for health; Let’s get active; Working together; Mental health and bullying; Drugs, alcohol and smoking; and Self Acceptance.

Currently there are Hans Kai™  Youth groups in Winnipeg, Québec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Japan. Co-op members are always available to support the group as needed.  The youth in the teen groups currently use photo-voice to showcase what they have gained from the program.  Hans Kai™  Youth has been adopted by the Seven Oaks School Board as part of its regular curriculum.  

GBLTQ versions of Hans Kai™ are being delivered on Vancouver Island through partnerships between the Victoria Health Co-op and the Rainbow Co-op and the Victoria Senior Lesbians Society.