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How offering a health coaching program can benefit your employees

All companies invest in their infrastructure, but thriving companies do something more—they invest in their employees. A thriving company recognizes that its workforce is its most valuable asset and tries to improve the health and wellness of its employees. To attract and retain top talent, these organizations offer a range of benefit options, including health coaching programs.

Offering a health coaching program bolsters traditional benefits by supporting employees in achieving their wellness goals. We sat down with Corey Smith, MPH, tobacco cessation specialist and lead lifestyle health coach at UPMC Health Plan, to talk about the benefits of this investment.

The benefit of employees making lifestyle changes:
A Q&A with UPMC Health Plan health coach Corey Smith

What is health coaching and how does it work?
Health coaching is a partnership. It gives people someone they can talk to about their health and wellness goals, challenges, and successes. [It also gives them] someone who is going to support them and meet them where they are. We help the member take the driver’s seat because that builds self-efficacy and confidence they can use to stay on track, even after they stop working with their health coach.
What are the benefits of employees using a health coach? Why is it worth the investment for employers?
Members may be more motivated to make healthy choices when they are working with a health coach. Healthier employees tend to take fewer sick days, have less stress, and enjoy better mental health—all of which can help create a happier and more productive workplace. This can lead to higher retention rates, which saves time and money in the long run. These employees also tend to have lower health care costs.
What health coaching programs does UPMC Health Plan offer?
We offer a variety of programs to support your employees in making lifestyle changes and managing their chronic conditions, such as diabetes, COPD, and asthma. All of our health coaches are health care professionals, and those assisting in chronic condition management are trained nurses with hands-on experience.

We also have behavioral health coaches who are licensed and certified social workers or counselors, and they can help with conditions like anxiety and depression, as well as substance use disorders.
What separates UPMC Health Plan’s health coaching programs from the competition’s?
The MyHealth Coach Academy sets us apart. UPMC Health Plan created this program to certify health coaches, giving us detailed information on motivational interviewing, which helps [us understand] what really inspires people to become healthier. Once [members] have that focus, the journey to improving their health and wellness becomes easier.

Our health coaches are also National Board-Certified Health and Wellness Coaches through the International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching (ICHWC).
How do members participate in health coaching?
Some employers opt for on-site coaching. Others prefer telephonic coaching because of the flexibility it offers—especially now. We are available over the phone weekdays from early morning into the evening, and on Saturdays for brief, one-time coaching sessions.
Have UPMC Health Plan members who worked with a health coach enjoyed much success?
Our members have achieved both big and small successes in working toward their health and wellness goals. Making changes is not easy, so we applaud (members) for working hard—even if they haven’t reached their long-term goal. Any progress or health improvement is a success [worth acknowledging].

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