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Health Spotlight: Health coaches bringing social connection to patients

Health Spotlight: Health coaches are patients’ corners

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — We’re all looking for the next wonder drug that can cure whatever ails us.

However, according to a recent landmark study, social connection can be just as important as a prescription pill. Social connection can strengthen the immune system and help people recover from diseases faster.

Valley Medical Center in Seattle has taken this concept to the next level by partnering patients with chronic conditions with health coaches.

The six-month-long one-to-one program trains volunteers in the community to support patients with chronic conditions. That’s how Georgia Henney met Alex Yonkman, her health coach.

“I thought to myself, this young whippersnapper isn’t going to know anything about this old lady, and then I decided to rethink that, and I am thrilled,” Henney said.

Henney and Yonkman, a pre-med student, met weekly, carving out a plan to improve her health. Yonkman says that a big interest for him was Henney’s nutrition.

“That’s the piece of the puzzle that has just, I’ve just not conquered that. I eat from the buffet where I live. I mean, you could have ice cream anytime you wanted,” Henney added.

Henney says the ice cream has now been replaced by healthier options. “I have vegetables. If I don’t get enough for dinner, I throw a bag of frozen in the microwave, that fills me up,” she said.

“She had all the tools. It was just a matter of setting them down on paper as goals and sticking to the goals,” Yonkman said.

Research shows that having a support person, like Yonkman, can reduce stress and improve overall health. Yonkman says that he believes the biggest change in Henney’s life is her view of herself, which has encouraged her to start exercising to prevent further falls.

Additionally, Henney and Yonkman both say they have developed a true friendship with each other.

“Alex is in my corner,” Henney said.

Health coaches at Valley Medical Center are also trained to support patients dealing with COPD, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Meetings can be in-person or online.

If you’re interested in having your own health coach, check with your health insurance company to find out about similar resources in this area.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.