Need a Health Coach?

They can offer help on nutrition, wellness, stress and a number of other things

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant


Health coaching rides the trend of preventive health, but how could a health coach help you?

Andrea Privitera, certified holistic health coach for University at Buffalo Neurosurgery (UBNS) and Child and Family Holistic Practice in Buffalo, said that health coaches’ services can complement what physicians do; however, she wishes more physicians would collaborate with health coaches to improve their patients’ health.

“I’d love to see us all work together to help patients understand the importance of quality of life and how we can make good decisions about food, exercise, and being mindful about these things to live our best lives,” she said.

She works with clients on nutrition, movement, mindfulness, stress and quality of life issues. She’s also a certified yoga instructor. She sometimes refers clients to chiropractors, massage therapists and to practitioners of whatever modality clients need.

Physician Joanne Wu, an experienced yoga teacher, health coach and wellness expert who sees patients in Buffalo, said that health coaches engage clients to focus on a healthful lifestyle.

“These skills are specialized,” Wu said. “Many people could use inspiring and accountable people in their lives so they can make sustainable change in daunting tasks such as exercise, lose weight, eat right, sleep better, and have less stress; however, not all health coaches are certified, are properly trained, or use evidence-based counseling tools to help their clients.”

The cost of health coaching — an average $50 to $80 an hour — may be covered by health insurance. However, those not covered who can’t afford to hire a health coach have other options.

Simply getting out in nature and walking can help support good health.

“Movement is critical,” Privitera said. “You cannot be well and not move. Walk in nature or near water. Both of those are healing and soothing mentally and physically.”

Though a health coach may not be specifically covered by health insurance, Privitera said that many health plans cover massage therapy, chiropractic care and gym memberships — all of which may offer elements promoted by a health coach.

Seeking support in a group setting to meet health goals can often help participants succeed while they save. For example, many gyms employ personal trainers and experts in nutrition who offer group programming. Group fitness sessions can foster accountability and camaraderie.

Community-based organizations such as YMCA and JCC offer fitness classes for short sessions. There’s no long-term commitment so you can “try on” an activity and learn more about health. Some gyms, martial arts schools and dance studios offer trial lessons or memberships as well. While these can’t replace regular exercise, they do provide an opportunity to experiment to see what activity could become lifelong without wasting money on an unused membership.

Workshops offered at the public library, health foods stores and other venues could offer a good way to learn more about good health (although these lack the ongoing motivation many need to stick with their goals). Read local periodicals and look on community bulletin boards to spot upcoming events.

“Should you have a friend that practices healthy behaviors, you can always approach them and many people will help each other best they can as friends,” Wu said. “Don’t be shy.”