Valley’s Health Coach program was recently featured in a story by Ivanhoe News. Georgia and her health coach Alex (pictured above) shared the meaningful change the program brought to both of their lives. You can watch their story at the bottom of the page.
In 2018, Valley launched an innovative community health program, pairing volunteer “health coaches” with primary care patients who showed an interest in making positive changes to improve their health, but would benefit from some additional guidance and encouragement to work toward their health goals.
“We started the Health Coach program because we knew that addressing a patient’s chronic conditions is central to improving their health,” says program director Hiroshi Nakano, Valley’s Vice President of Value Based Initiatives. “To get there, we believed that we needed to support reaching goals that the patient identifies. We also knew that many patient goals had not been previously met by medical intervention alone; that is, we needed to understand and address what is now called the ‘social drivers of health’*.”
Patients enrolled in the Health Coach program work one-on-one with a trained volunteer health coach on goals identified by the patient.
“Our approach is whole-person individualized care, in collaboration with the patient’s primary care team,” says program manager Laurie King, RN. “Patients self-identify what health-related goals they would like to work toward and what barriers they might be experiencing. We then offer resources specific to the patient. The resources may range from referrals to Valley’s Lifestyle Medicine team or the YMCA, to resources for food or transportation, to educational information or activities at the local community center.”
Feeling lonely? Looking for social connections? Community Connections may be right for you!
This new, free volunteer service from Valley’s Health Coach program supports our patients by combatting loneliness and social isolation by connecting with our local community!
Our team of trained volunteers, who are supported and mentored by a registered nurse and a licensed social worker, are available to visit you once a week via phone, Zoom, or in person, to learn about the types of social activities you might enjoy. Your volunteer will then help you connect to resources in the community where you may make friends and enjoy the company of others. Learn more at valleymed.org/healthcoach.
Prior to being paired with patients, prospective health coaches participate in a 12-week training program, with weekly sessions on topics ranging from learning about chronic conditions and how to utilize community resources, to skill training in active listening and motivational interviewing. After completing the course, participants are eligible to volunteer as a health coach through one of Valley’s primary care clinics. Health coaches serve for approximately 6 months. The first class of volunteer health coaches began working with patients in early 2019, and since then, nearly 100 coach/patient partnerships have been established, with some coaches continuing to volunteer for 2-3 years and serving multiple patients.
“When a patient shares a health-related goal with us, such as ‘I want to lose weight,” or ‘I want to improve my lab results,’ we start exploring how a patient may achieve that goal. Most often, health-related goals can be reached by working toward small, achievable weekly goals related to lifestyle change, such as improving nutrition or increasing physical activity,” King shared. “We call these goals ‘SMART,’ which stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. The coach serves as an accountability partner and encourager. By working toward small weekly goals, our patients achieve improved health outcomes.”
A recent review of clinical outcomes for patients participating in the program has shown success: 77.8% of participants saw an improvement in their A1C (a lab test for diabetes), 68.4% lost weight, and 29.4% saw an improvement in their high blood pressure. But perhaps a better measure is feedback from the patients:
- “If it wasn’t for my health coach, I would not have stopped drinking soda or started walking every day. (My coach) gave me a lot of resources, including recipes, so I could try healthy eating. My health coach supported and encouraged me.” – Patient Melissa
- “(My coach) is in my corner.” – Patient Georgia (Watch an interview with Georgia and her coach Alex below.)
- “(My coach) was really good at trying to get me to set goals, and I’m still sticking to those. When I first started the program, I was eating ice cream almost every night, but he got me down to having ice cream once a week and a smoothie twice a week. (My coach) helped with getting orthopedic shoes. He was always good after our meeting to get what I needed.” – Patient Chris
Interested in becoming a volunteer health coach? Or could you use the support of a health coach yourself? Learn more about the program and how to sign up at valleymed.org/healthcoach.
Health Coach: Someone in Your Corner!
Recently, our Health Coach program was featured on Ivanhoe News. Learn about patient Georgia’s experience with Alex, her Health Coach, and how participating in the program has helped her create and maintain healthy goals.
*Social Drivers of Health (also known as Social Determinants of Health) is defined by the the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as “…the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning, and quality-of-life outcomes and risks.” Learn more at health.gov.