Healthy Tidbits

With You All The Way

How a Health Coach Can Help You Get Healthy and Stay Healthy

Mar 26, 2015

Victor S. Sierpina, MD

In the emerging healthcare scenario, the health coach is becoming an increasingly significant player.

Health coaching can be defined as helping patients gain the knowledge, skills, tools, and confidence to become active participants in their care so that they can reach their self-identified health goals.

The fact of the matter is that behavioral and lifestyle change is hard. If you have asthma, diabetes, obesity, or any other chronic condition, or you are just having problems setting or achieving wellness-oriented goals, a health coach may be able to help you reach your goals.

A health coach can help you identify goals, create and achieve small steps toward goals, improve self-management, and help sustain your motivation.

The average brief physician office visit cannot possibly effectively address all important health issues. Such visits include updating current vaccines, addressing new and chronic complaints, ordering and reviewing tests, refilling medications, generating referrals, and managing paperwork associated with multiple health issues. Thus the important time and effort required for effective health care counseling and motivation are often squeezed into just a few moments at the end of the visit.

What happens between office visits is what truly matters in helping you make significant and enduring changes in health-related behavior such as activity, nutrition, and stress management.

If you undergo bariatric surgery, you likely will lose a significant amount of weight. However, keeping it off will be a day-to-day set of choices in your lifestyle. This may be when a health coach will be most helpful, someone you can call or lean on when the going gets tough.

Health coaches can be nurses, social workers, medical assistants (MAs), community health workers such as promotores, other health educators, or even other patients in group visits or peer-peer interactions if they are given appropriate training and support. A health coach is not just a personal trainer or fitness instructor, though these people can play an important role in helping in supporting optimization of health.

Motivational interviewing skills are key to effective behavioral change and coaches from any background must be skilled in this communication approach.

So talk to your health care team soon after surgery or even ahead of time and get connected with a professional coach who will help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight after weight loss surgery.