The “My Toolbox” program teaches patients with chronic conditions how to take the reins

MUHC is the only hospital in Quebec to offer world-renowned self-management workshop


MONTREAL 25 February 2010 – Being diagnosed with a chronic illness such as cancer, heart disease, asthma or diabetes can turn your world upside down. The pain and decreased independence caused by these kinds of illness can make patients feel depressed and isolated. Help is at hand however: My Toolbox – a six-week program offered for free at the MUHC – assists patients and their loved ones in managing the day-to-day challenges of living with a chronic condition. The popular program is led by volunteers who themselves suffer from chronic diseases. Due to the program’s popularity, the March session is fully booked.  However, people are encouraged to register for the summer session that takes place this May in both French and English. 

“Many people with chronic health conditions fail to receive the necessary support because the Canadian healthcare system is better set up to manage acute, rather than chronic conditions,” explains Dr. Deborah Radcliffe-Branch, an MUHC educational psychologist,  Director of the My Toolbox program and assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine at McGill University. “My Tool Box is an evidence-based resource that can help the estimated 9 million people in Canada who suffer from a chronic health condition.”

Interactive My Toolbox workshops emphasize coping strategies and practical skills such as managing symptoms, communicating effectively with your health care team and loved ones, setting goals, and dealing with emotions such as fear, anger and depression. “It is the process by which the program is taught that makes it effective,” explains Dr. Radcliffe-Branch. “Workshops are highly participative, and involve volunteers who themselves have chronic conditions. Mutual support and success help build the participants’ confidence in their ability to manage their health and maintain active and fulfilling lives”.

The program also has a research component.  ''We are measuring its impact on self-management behaviours, self-efficacy measures, health status, and healthcare system utilization,” explains Dr. Radcliffe-Branch. “To date, we have documented improved communication with physicians, and reductions in pain, fatigue, health distress, depression, and illness intrusiveness.” Improvements have also been seen in participants' ability to cope with, and manage their disease and its symptoms.

My Toolbox was developed at Stanford University and is offered in more than 15 languages around the world. At the MUHC, My Toolbox is supported with funds from the MUHC Innovations Bursary program and the MUHC Users Committee. Continuing support for the program is provided by the MUHC, McGill University, the Montreal Neurological Institute and additional private funding. For registration information, please call 514-934-1934, ext. 71585 or email mytoolbox [at] muhc [dot] mcgill [dot] ca.  For more information visit:

About the McGill University Health Centre

The McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) is a comprehensive academic health institution with an international reputation for excellence in clinical programs, research and teaching. Its partner hospitals are the Montreal Children's Hospital, the Montreal General Hospital, the Royal Victoria Hospital, the Montreal Neurological Hospital, the Montreal Chest Institute and the Lachine Hospital. Our goal is to provide patient care based on the most advanced knowledge in the health care field, and to contribute to the development of new knowledge.

About the MUHC Redevelopment Project

Guided by its mission and its role as co-leaders of the McGill integrated university hospital network, the MUHC is carrying out a $2.2-billion Redevelopment Project that will help the Government achieve its vision for academic medicine in Quebec. Excellence in patient care, research, education and technology assessment will be fostered on three state-of-the-art campuses—The Mountain, the Glen and Lachine—and through strong relationships with healthcare partners. Each LEED®-registered campus will be designed to provide patients and their families with “The Best Care for Life” in a healing environment that is anchored in best sustainable development practices, including BOMA BESt guidelines.