Just as Health Coaches Help Adults, They Can Also Tackle Pediatric Health Concerns
By Joan B. Sechrist, PhD, RD, research and education specialist at Optima Health
There was a time when we assumed that children were naturally fit and healthy. That may or may not have been true, but we do know that in recent years, concerns about childhood obesity have changed our perceptions.
After the U.S. childhood obesity rate more than tripled since the early 1980s, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) says it appears to have leveled off recently, but there is still plenty of bad news. Nearly a third of children and teens are overweight, and about 17 percent, or 12.5 million, are obese.
| Joan B. Sechrist, Optima Health|
To help children manage their weight, stop smoking, reduce stress or improve other health habits, health coaching is available just as it is for adults with similar goals.
Health coaches may be registered nurses, registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, social workers or other health professionals who work with families and youth to set goals for improving their health.
Pediatric health coaches provide health education, personal support and encouragement to identify obstacles and make behavioral changes. Coaching can help children and families achieve health and well being by eliminating unhealthy habits that can lead to illness and chronic diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.
For young people dealing with weight issues, a registered dietitian works with the child and family to create a plan to slowly change eating, physical activity and relaxation habits. Coaching helps children choose healthier foods, become more active and take breaks from stress.
Children are encouraged to take small steps such as eating an extra serving of fruit daily or playing active games during recess. A wellness journal is an important tool many coaches use to help children develop plans for healthy eating, physical activity and rest.
Health coaching is also available for young people who want to quit using tobacco. Health coaches help teens evaluate their readiness to quit by looking at their reason to quit, their confidence in their ability to quit, and their commitment to making and sticking to a personal quit plan.
Throughout the coaching process, young people learn about the addictive nature of nicotine, typical withdrawal symptoms and personal triggers. In addition to the health benefits of tobacco cessation, young people learn that freedom from tobacco can mean more money in their pockets, and they develop a sense of accomplishment by achieving their goals.
While health coaching in general – and pediatric health coaching, specifically – comprise a relatively new trend, some health insurers already provide coverage for this service. If your family could benefit from health coaching, check policy benefits when considering your health insurance options.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Childhood Overweight and Obesity
The Value of Health Coaches
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