Every five seconds, someone in the United States is diagnosed with diabetes. Paula never thought she would be one of them, but she is.
Coming home from the doctor, Paula is armed with pamphlets and literature, and lists of things to do and not to do. But, she’s scared and confused. There are so many changes to make. How will she know what to do first? How can she make changes that last, so that this disease doesn’t kill her? Among the pieces of paper, however, is a card that could make a tremendous difference in Paula’s prognosis. It’s a referral to a Health Coach.
Whether it’s debating health care reform, coping with the rising costs of prescriptions, or facing the impact of lifestyle-based illnesses, most people agree on one thing. The American health care system is overloaded, and with 78 million baby boomers getting older each year, things are bound to get worse.
What can someone do, short of becoming a medical doctor, to make a difference? Health coaching, and its sister occupation Health Educator, are among the fastest growing fields. The job “Health Educator” is one of only two new jobs listed in the 2008 Occupational Handbook. In fact, it’s predicted that the field will explode by 2024, as more and more baby boomers begin aging and entering the health care system.
What exactly does a health coach do? Health coaches work in conjunction with allopathic medicine to heal patients and improve wellness through lifestyle changes. That is, once a patient gets a diagnosis of, say, diabetes, he or she will then get a referral to a health coach to create a lifestyle that supports any medications or program the doctor may put the patient on. Many health coaches are approved by major health insurance plans, and their coaching fees are covered by insurance!
If disease and health are like a relay race, then the health coach takes the baton from the doctor and helps move the patient toward the finish line of healing and wellness. A health coach will work with the patient, taking the doctor’s recommendations, and create a personalized program and provide accountability for compliance. If you’re not eating your vegetables, your health coach will know it!
Health coaching isn’t limited to working with individuals, either. Health coaches can teach in the community, work with corporate wellness programs, and write and speak on health and wellness topics. It’s a perfect career for those who are feeling frustrated with the current state of health care and want to make a meaningful difference.
Six months after her diagnosis, Paula is feeling better than ever. She’s lost 15 pounds, her blood sugar levels have stabilized, and a follow-up exam with her doctor indicates she might be able to stop taking her diabetes medication in a few months. Working with her health coach has made the difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it!