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Peer Health Coaches Help Students Find A Balance

For The Heights

Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012

Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01

This year, the Office of Health Promotion (OHP) welcomed 45 students as health coaches for the upcoming year. These students were trained and certified to meet with other students to discuss health related issues and help create plans to lead students to healthier lifestyles.

Elise Phillips, the director of OHP, says that the program is designed to work with students and to meet their own goals.

“As health coaches, we guide students to develop personal goals that are manageable and reachable for themselves,” Phillips said. “We have a health conversation with the student to help them identify things they may want to change, and acknowledge things that are going well.”
The program started last year, and has since grown into a wide range of resources for students, providing information about exercise, nutrition, relationships, alcohol and drugs, and any other areas of a student’s health. Programs are also offered in time and stress management, as well as a bystander intervention program that groups of students can request and a health coach will facilitate. These topics are also covered in an individual health plan.

After being selected, health coaches train for two days to become certified. Part of their training involves leading health-related programs on campus. The goal of these programs is to allow students to talk to other students about any areas they may wish to improve upon.

The health coaches have specialty areas within the Health Coaching program. Xijun Zhu, A&S ’15, works with “Well, Why Not?” a program on general wellness, and “Choices,” an alcohol and drug program. “We’re trying to educate the students,” said Zhu, who says that the program informs rather than pushes the students. “At the end of the day, the choice is theirs.” Zhu also stresses the holistic approach of the health coaches. “We look at the overall health of the individual. The spiritual, the physical, the emotional … We look at everything,” she said.

Scott Thomas, A&S ’13, is the lead health coach. He joined the program at its inception last year.

“I started off in OHP, and they explained their whole program and what their vision was,” Thomas said. “I thought it would be cool to see something from the beginning. It’s good to see the school can still grow and start new things.”
According to Thomas, the program is designed with the students in mind as the most important aspect. “We’re always here for the students, first and foremost,” he said.

Students can visit the Office of Health Promotion website,, to set up a meeting with a coach. The student takes a self-assessment about his or her lifestyle, called an IHP, or Individual Health Plan.

There are also many other events put on by the Office of Health Promotion around campus, including the “Be Well Series” and educational tabling events to be held in the Quad on Fridays until October.

“We try to guide students to create a balance in their lives with school work, service, work, and socializing, and that can help them feel more in control over their lives,” Phillips said.

Coming up soon from the OHP is “Healthapalooza,” which will take place on Wednesday, Sept. 19 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in O’Neill Plaza. This event will feature food tastings, yoga, and 10 licensed massage therapists. This will kick off this year’s “Sweet Dreamzzz” campaign, aimed to help students on campus understand the importance of sleep and strategies for improving sleep hygiene.

“We’re doing it big,” Thomas said. “We’re in full swing.”
The OHP is currently recruiting for Health Coaches. Students can visit the website to apply to become a health coach, or request a program or individual health plan online.

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