"75% of health care spending pays for illnesses which are preventable".
- Centers for Disease Control

Four of the leading causes of death in the nation—heart disease, cancer, stroke, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease —are directly linked to unhealthy lifestyles and tobacco use. Encouraging individuals to adopt healthy habits and practices may reduce the burden of chronic disease in communities throughout the United States. Public and private efforts and programs are increasingly designed to promote these healthy behaviors and lifestyles. Employers are becoming more aware that obesity, lack of physical activity, and tobacco use are adversely affecting the health and productivity of their employees and ultimately, the businesses’ bottom line. As a result, innovative employers are providing their employees with a variety of work-site-based health promotion and disease prevention programs using health coaches and the “trans- theoretical theory of change” approach to wellness. These programs have been shown to improve employee health, increase productivity and yield a significant return on investment for the employer.

What is a Health Coaching Program?

Health coaching programs help people make smart choices about health behaviors through education, motivation and reinforcement of healthy options. Taking the time to build a rapport, assess readiness to change, identify areas of need and to create an action plan, leads to a healthier outcome. Research proves that this personalized, collaborative approach is more effective than the cookie-cutter method that often leaves those most at risk far behind.

Health Coaches typically are licensed, degreed healthcare professionals that have made the choice to work one-on-one with their clients, outside of the typical “medical model”; empowering them to make long-term healthy changes by building solid skills that will last a lifetime.

Wellness Promotion

Employee wellness education is the starting point of prevention. It is about encouraging individuals who have demonstrated positive, healthy behaviors and providing them with the tools and support they need to stay fit, manage stress and continue to make good health decisions. Programs often include initiatives such as health risk assessments, on-site screenings, wellness lecture series, health club memberships, and financial incentives.

By promoting continued healthy choices, employers can reduce overall healthcare costs and absenteeism as well as support a “culture of health and wellness”.

Health Improvement Plans

Health improvement plans are about identifying high-risk factors, and preventing or slowing disease progression and encouraging individuals through education and one-on-one behavioral health coaching to begin altering their risky actions.
The types of lifestyle high-risk factors addressed by health improvement plans include, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, tobacco cessation, and weight management.

Individuals with known or potential health conditions may be aware of elevated risks but have not found the motivation to change. They haven’t experienced any major hospitalization or serious complications – yet. However, without some form of intervention, their conditions will likely progress to a much costlier, productivity-limiting chronic disease.

Disease Management

The goal of disease management is to empower individuals to effectively manage disease and prevent complications through adherence to medication regimens, regular self-monitoring of vital signs and healthful diet, exercise and other lifestyle choices by education, support and encouragement of both the physician and the health coach.

For employers, the cost of chronic disease goes far beyond the direct costs of healthcare and medical expenses. Absenteeism due to lost wages amounts to $65 billion annually for American companies. This cost is compounded by the impact of lost productivity due to workers who are limited in the amount or kind of work they can do, which can be as high as 34% of the total workforce. Disease management programs have proven to not only control health benefit costs but also improve the overall health and productivity of workplace environments.

Author's Bio: 

The founder of Monarch Health Promotions; Michelle L. Taylor has been in the healthcare industry for over 14 years in Tucson, Arizona.

After suffering from severe asthma throughout her life, she is especially committed to respiratory disease prevention and management services. She also believes that the psychological and social burdens of chronic illness can be minimized through patient, caregiver and community education.

Michelle is a registered respiratory therapist, a nationally certified asthma educator, and a certified tobacco cessation specialist, as well as a certified health coach. She has collaborated with The American Lung Association, The American Cancer Society, and The University of Arizona as a speaker, volunteer, and an educator in her chosen field.

Michelle has also worked in specialty pharmaceuticals for many years, educating area hospitals, pulmonologists, allergists, neurologists, anesthesiologists, and psychiatrists on the best pharmacological choices and treatment options available for their patients.