Do You Need a Health Coach?

The HealthGal Health Guide
  • A recent Wall Street Journal article explored a relatively new game-changer in the world of lifestyle change. The term Health Coach describes a health professional, possibly a nurse, dietician, diabetes educator, social worker, pharmacist, or in my case a Physician Assistant, who helps individuals with either chronic ongoing disease management, or helps someone to reduce the risks of developing these diseases. In the context of the WSJ article, these Health Coaches are hired by health plans to help members, however, in my case, I continued my health education years ago by supplementing my health degree with years of continuing medical education (CME) in diet and nutrition, and obtaining personal training and exercise group training instruction.

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    My feeling at the time, before the concept of Health Coach had evolved, was that I could not keep simply treating patients by dispensing pills and medical therapies. I wanted to intercept disease and convince patients that they could modify quite a bit of risk factor predisposition, or actual ongoing disease, by choosing to change lifestyle habits. I actually remember thinking, "I can't treat this train wreck (patient with multiple ongoing illnesses) just by giving her more and more medication. I need to make her realize that if she commits to some changes in her life, over time, she will feel better, look better and save a lot of money by taking less medication and by needing to see her doctor with less frequency. I need to believe that this patient will get with the program if I really engage her own willingness to direct her health journey."


    Well, famous last thoughts and words. Over twenty plus years I have found that some clients indeed, want to modify their lifestyle when the stakes include fewer visits to the doctor, better looks and energy, less drugs and frankly less undesirable side effects.  Certainly some clients are scared straight into a lifestyle change because of a sudden dire health scare.  Others want to pop a pill, because no matter how I present the information, the discipline required (and you do need to commit) just overwhelms them. To be fair, change is not easy and the motivation to stay on the journey requires a great deal of energy. But the payoff is huge and as most of us know, once habits are in play for awhile, they do become easier.


    So the question is, would you benefit from a health coach? Here's what we can do for you:

    • Help you to identify realistic goals
    • Provide ongoing support as you follow necessary recommendations by physicians
    • Motivate you, especially when friends and family are not supportive
    • Explore different lifestyle techniques and options that fit your needs and match your personality
    • Provide ongoing emotional support
    • Tell you the truth when you need to hear it
    • Act as a liaison with your doctor, and other health professionals involved in your care
      • Provide "extra information" that will extend your knowledge about how lifestyle choices you are making relate to disease expression.
      • Help you to strategize and re-strategize as you begin to change your lifestyle habits. Change has to be dynamic not static.
      • In my case, I can also create exercise programs, train you directly, create menu plans and teach you about nutrition.

    If you think these services would be helpful, you can engage the help of a Health Coach privately, or see if insurance will cover services, even for just a short time.  You can also approach your employer to see if the company would be willing to hire a Health Coach.  The impact of a Health Coach can be invaluable. Just make sure to check out the background of your Health Coach, to ensure that the individual has true professional training.

Published On: March 01, 2012