Health Coach: Someone in Your Corner

A recent landmark study, social connection can be just as important as a prescription pill.
Published: Sep. 22, 2023 at 11:16 AM EDT
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ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) -SEATTLE, Wash. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - We are 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. Among other things, it can strengthen the immune system, and help us recover from disease faster. A Seattle area hospital has taken the concept to the next level by introducing community and wellness to its patients who have chronic conditions.

Georgia Henney, says, “I’ve been sort of keeping gaining weight. I’ve been having a lot of falls.”

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

“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.” Says Henney.

Henney and Yonkman, a pre-med student, met weekly carving out a plan to improve her health.

“A big interest for me was nutrition.” States Yonkman.

Henney explains, “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.”

That’s now been replaced by healthier options.

Henney explains, “I have vegetables. If I don’t get enough for dinner, I throw a bag of frozen in the microwave, that fills me up.”

Alex Yonkman, Health Coach at Valley Medical Center says, “She had all the tools. It was just a matter of setting them down on paper as goals and sticking to the goals.”

Research shows that having a support person, like Yonkman, can reduce stress and improve overall health.

“I would say, the biggest thing that’s changed is her view of herself.” Explains Yonkman.

That led Henney to start exercising to prevent further falls.

“I like what I’m doing.” Says Henney.

And better yet … Yonkman says, “We developed a true friendship.”

Henney says, “Alex is in my corner.”

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 your area.