Courtney Hamilton, a Los Angeles publicist, is a prime example of someone who has benefited from a health coach. She suffered from the debilitating digestive symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome for more than 20 years until a health coach from Parsley Health, a national network of primary care clinics, told her it was not normal for her stomach to “puff up” as if she were in six months pregnant after eating a normal meal.
Tests at the Los Angeles clinic revealed that her intestines were flooded with gas-producing bacteria that thrive on her often arbitrary diet. First treated with antibiotics to kill the harmful organisms, she was told that she had to change her diet drastically to keep them in check. A health coach taught her how to do it and she was on call if she had any problems or questions.
“It was very difficult to navigate in the beginning,” said Ms. Hamilton. “All funny foods in my life have been banned for the sake of my quality of life. But the health coach helped me through the difficult parts and made healthier decisions easier. She gave me recipes and cooking tips and taught me what to order in restaurants. Within a few months my bowel was normal for the first time in decades. “
Erica Zellner, health coach at the Parsley Clinic, said: “I have never met a patient who was not resistant to change. Coaches take the time to get to know the patients comprehensively, to find their inner motivation and to prepare them for individual success. Health happens 99.9 percent of your life when you are not in the doctor’s office. “
Angela Hill said her goal as a health coach at Iora Primary Care in Seattle is to build relationships with patients, learn what affects them, what their health goals are, and what could prevent them from making necessary behavioral changes.
“I pick up patients from where they are, find out what is holding them back, and move on from there,” she said. “Together we will develop achievable goals and a plan that is easy and accessible to the patient,” she said.
Dr. Russell S. Phillips, director of the Primary Care Center at Harvard Medical School, told me, “Health coaching should be an integral part of primary care. It helps patients better manage chronic conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure, and improves outcomes.