The Health Conversation
Published: Sunday, September 22, 2013
Updated: Sunday, September 22, 2013 23:09
As students at BC begin to balance extra curricular activities and academic coursework, another just as important aspect of their life may also need some consideration: their health. Whether students are struggling with the task of cooking their own food off-campus or trying to come up with healthy options in the dining halls, health is often on the minds of students. The Health Coach Institute within the Office of Health Promotion (OHP) allows students the opportunity to have informed individual health conversations with certified student health coaches.
Griffin Sharp, A&S ’14, one of two lead health coaches this year, described how this peer education system works. “Students can come into our office and discuss any area of health they want to talk about, then we work with them to develop personal health goals and strategies,” Sharp said. “These are confidential one-on-one health conversations.”
In these meetings, health coaches use their skills to help students make health changes, including referring students to other resources on campus. “Educate, motivate, and refer are the three big words we live by,” Sharp said.
The Individual Health Plan, called an iHP, covers a variety of health domains in the conversation including time and stress management, sleep, substance use, relationships, nutrition, and spirituality. Students can make appointments to develop an iHP with a health coach simply by going through the website of the OHP.
The health coaches also offer group health education workshops. These are workshops taught to any group of students that request them and include: Stress and Time Management, Nutrition, Mindfulness, How to Worry Well, and General Wellness. These topics are laid out this year in the Health Coach Institute’s “i <3 Health: Because being healthy never goes out of style.” Titles for these workshops include iChill, iPlan, iChoose, iReflect, iEat, and iStrive. Group workshops can also be found on OHP’s website.
There is a specific training and certification program that students undergo to become a health coach. These students undergo a three-day comprehensive certification program that includes an overview of health programs at BC to refer students to, how to have a health conversation, and how to facilitate group health education specialty areas. At the end of the training period, health coaches must present their education plan to their peers, facilitate a program, and complete a written and verbal test. Health coaches also have a “Health Coach Playbook” that serves as their curriculum guide.
Betsy Cook, the Health Coach Institute Coordinator described the training. “Health coaches are trained in the skills of motivational enhancement and how to have a health conversation.”
It is the importance of this “health conversation” that makes the BC health coaches so unique. These are not one-sided education seminars, but rather truly engaging discussions between the student and health coach. “These conversations are geared toward what the student needs,” Cook said. “A student can follow-up on their initial conversation with a health coach. Your personal health plan can evolve with you and you can keep coming back to work on different aspects of health.”
Katelyn Kennedy, a certified health coach and LSOE ’15, said that it is a student’s own initiative to seek out help that elicits change. “The students who come to us drive the bus. We educate them and give them the resources, so they can make the change themselves.”
The Health Coach Institute has expanded since its establishment in 2011.
“We have trained over 100 students in the past three years,” said Elise Phillips, Director of OHP. “We currently have 65 active coaches with a mixture of male and female students. These are students who are very interested in health and helping their peers.”
OHP and health coaches will be an active presence on campus this year, as they will be hosting “tabling events” every Friday around campus. These tables will provide information about different health themes and programs. The location of these events will be tweeted as well as posted on the OHP Facebook page.
Alyssa Rizzini, a certified health coach and A&S ’15, described how health coaches take their education and share it with fellow students. “We do this through either small programs held in dorms or huge events such as Healthapalooza on Sept. 25. We really want to open students’ eyes to ways of finding healthy options right on campus.”
The goal of the Health Coach Institute is to offer students the resources and ability to think about their health while they are at BC.
“You come here and plan your academics, and we are here to help you plan for health,” Phillips said.
So while we do have this resource of the health coaches on campus, how hard or easy is it for students to navigate the world of nutrition on their own, whether it be on or off campus?