An integrative cancer care centre based in British Columbia has extended its reach beyond provincial borders. Starting this week, InspireHealth began offering an online program to Canadians anywhere in the country.

Paul Paddon, the program manager at InspireHealth’s virtual centre, said their model offers nutrition and exercise programs as well as stress reduction strategies patients can use during standard medical treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation.

“A lot of the current research is showing supporting your immune system not only improves the efficacy of the treatment but it can actually help your body itself fight the cancer," he said.

Although it got its start 16 years ago, the model at InspireHealth is a forward thinking one, pairing service providers like medical doctors, nutritionists, yoga instructors, nurse practitioners, counsellors and physical therapists together to create individualized treatment plans.

Two years ago, they were given funding by the B.C. Ministry of Health to expand, making theirs the only program of its kind in Canada. The result was two new centres in Kelowna and Victoria and last year's launch of a virtual centre for patients in other parts of the province.

And while there are integrative cancer clinics in Ottawa and Calgary, Paddon says this latest expansion into the online world has made their programs available to the vast majority of Canadians who don’t have a similar option close by. 

Paul Paddon

Paul Paddon is the program manager at InspireLIFE BC, InspireHealth's virtual program centre. (InspireHealth)

"Going online is about removing barriers to access. We can’t open up centres in every community but what we can do is help people become aware of their options," Paddon said.

70 people signed up for the launch of the new, national online program which offers a guide, weekly online meditation class, four webinars and monthly nutrition sessions. A second online session is scheduled to begin in mid-February.

“I think there’s a real need in the health care community for people to take charge of their own health. The more that we can empower people to do what they can to support themselves, the better off we’re all going to be," Paddon said. "We’ve had success, we’ve served thousands of patients over the last 16 years, what people like about our programs led to the government wanting to support them.”

To take a closer look at those successes, InspireHealth has partnered with the Samueli Institute to set up a random, controlled trial with the B.C. Cancer Agency. Some participants in the study will go through traditional care alongside InspireHealth’s programs, others will do traditional care alone.

“We’re very excited to be able to do this and to be letting other people know. We really believe this is the model for the future. So the more people know about this, the more we can move towards a health care system that can actually support people toward health rather than treating disease, “ said Paddon.