Roughly 60% of diseases in the US are chronic and lifestyle-driven, and four in 10 adults have two or more chronic health conditions, making chronic disease the leading cause of death and disability.1 The three main culprits behind the high rate of chronic illness in the US are both familiar and modifiable: poor diet, sedentary lifestyles, and smoking.1 But while the trajectory of these diseases can be altered with lifestyle changes, patients often need more guidance than a primary care clinician is able to offer.
We all know how time consuming it can be to establish and follow through on a plan to eliminate bad habits and engage in better nutrition and exercise—let alone manage condition-specific symptoms. The process is complex and can be overwhelming—not only for the patient, but for the practitioner as well. Patients require education, encouragement, and accountability in order to make sustainable changes in their lives.
That’s where health coaching comes in. Health coaches help practitioners take their patients on a path toward wellness. Working alongside a clinician, health coaches advise and motivate patients to change unhealthy lifestyle habits and manage chronic conditions by providing them with tools and support to navigate when times get rough.
In the following IFM video, Lisa Portera-Perry, DC, talks about some of the potential benefits of using a health coach when starting a Functional Medicine practice. Dr. Portera-Perry is a strong advocate for a collaborative care team approach to improve patient outcomes, and she uses a variety of Functional Medicine and lifestyle/mind-body medicine tools to empower her patients to more deeply engage in their healing journeys.
Health coaches can help simplify wellness by educating patients on the power of whole foods and physical activity, and act as encouraging guides. An active communication framework involving dissemination of diet- and exercise-related health information and structured goal setting appears promising in the management of chronic disease.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Chronic diseases in America. Published April 15, 2019. Accessed August 28, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/infographic/chronic-diseases.htm
“Whole Health is an approach to health care that both empowers and equips patients to really take charge of their health and well-being. For what purpose? [For patients] to live their life to the fullest. What does that look like? The person is at the center—their mission, their aspiration, their purpose—is at the very center of this model… It addresses areas of self-care together with clinical care.” – Tracy Gaudet, MDRead More
In an IFM video, Elizabeth Boham, MD, talks about how she combined an undergraduate degree in nutritional chemistry with a degree in family medicine and Functional Medicine certification so that she could help patients navigate chronic disease. Dr. Boham is also a registered dietitian.Read More