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Coaching Key to Journey-to-Wellness

In August 2017, the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine published our article entitled “INTEGRATING HEALTH COACHING WITH A MEDICAL FITNESS PROGRAM TO TREAT CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITIONS.”   Brad Roy, Ph.D. is the lead author of this work and it is co-authored by other members of his Kalispell staff (Pam Roberts, M.D., Cathy Lisowski, M.S.), Miranda P. Kaye,Ph.D., as well as Wellcoaches Research Advisor (Sforzo).

Journey-to-Wellness (J2W) Program is offered by a multidisciplinary team at The Summit Medical Fitness Center in Kalispell, Montana.  The team includes nutritionists, exercise physiologists, physicians, nurses, and wellness coaches serving hundreds of patients who are managing lifestyle-related medical disorders (e.g., diabetes).  During the period studied in the published article, J2W treated 1,306 patients and each averaged between four and five coaching sessions in a three-month period.  Their patients averaged about 53 years of age and were all referred to J2W by a primary care physician.  Patients suffered with a wide range of disorders including heart disease, obesity, chronic pain, and cancer to name a few.  The researchers measured many outcomes (see below) before and after the three-month intervention.

Findings from the J2W program were extremely encouraging.  With just three months of J2W participation, those with chronic pain, obesity, cardiac problems, and even cancer improved on four or more outcome variables.  Reports of better health status and quality of life were evident across all 12 diagnostic categories studied. Patients with obesity and chronic pain may have benefited the most from J2W with improvements in 13 of 14 outcome measures. Those patients who may have the most to gain from a reduction in fat deposition (diabetic, pre-diabetic, obese, hypertensive) experienced strong changes in all body composition-related variables. It is clear J2W was a highly effective wellness endeavor in a short period of time.  Medical fitness programs can be successful but J2W exceeded expectations.  Is it possible wellness coaching was the added ingredient to spur on the highly positive results.

In an effort to isolate the effects of coaching in J2W participants, the researchers compared outcomes achieved by those patients with more or less coaching.  Those completing more than four sessions reported greater improvements in quality of life, and health status, than those exposed to less than four coaching sessions in three months.  Furthermore, nutrition behaviors and weight management also tended to be better for participants with more than four sessions. 

Many other outcomes were not clearly affected by greater amounts of coaching.  Ultimately, the researchers essentially concluded it is difficult to separate out the independent effects of coaching in J2W – it is a fully integrated medical fitness program.  The value of coaching was agreed to be even beyond the positive statistical findings and not easily quantifiable.

The highly successful Journey-to-Wellness Program has health and wellness coaching as a key and fully integrated component for patient intervention.   It is both exciting and affirming to see Wellcoaches-trained coaching professionals working daily with a diversity of patient presentations at the Summit Medical Fitness Center.  You can read all about this work in the most recent edition of the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

Source Roy, B., Roberts P., Lisowski C., Kaye, M.P., & Sforzo, G.A.  “Integrating Health Coaching with a Medical Fitness Program to Treat Chronic Health Conditions.”  American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine.

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