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Taking the first step in managing our health and wellness can be a challenge. We can become overwhelmed with differing points of information on where and how to begin. It can become so frustrating that some people may not take that step.

But there is a solution available: The University of Rochester Wellness Coaching Program. Through insurance plans, the management program is available to employees from 20 school districts in the Finger Lakes Area School Health Plan.

Those who opt to use the free program will have access to a team of clinicians and experts who will provide one-on-one assistance to meet goals — be it weight loss, disease management or other concerns.

“This is a really great program that’s available to these employees,” says Holly Vianco, a client engagement manager at the University of Rochester Medicine Center for Employee Wellness. “How great is it that the employers offer this service?”

Vianco says the program, which is confidential, has been designed to be highly accessible to clients. Sessions can be handled via telephone or video calls, called telehealth. When a client first reaches out they will talk with a registered nurse wellness coach who will help tailor the program and include the necessary specialists. For example, if someone is looking to lose weight, he or she would likely be paired with a nutritionist and perhaps a fitness coach. The nutritionist can provide an eating plan that will spur weight loss in a healthy manner. A fitness coach can create an exercise regimen and through the telehealth program provide instruction on how to properly perform the exercise.

Vianco says each program is tailored to the client’s needs. The setup is similar for someone dealing with a chronic condition like high cholesterol or diabetes. The ease with which coaches can be contacted eliminates the need for people to “join into a program.” She was also quick to stress the program is not a “one and done” kind of thing. Participants will likely meet with the lifestyle coaches multiple times throughout a period of several months. If goals have not been met, meetings can continue.

“Everything is based on the goals of what that person wants to work on,” Vianco says. “Having the option to meet with a multidisciplinary care team gives people all the tools to combat whatever it is they want to address about their health. The programs are designed to help make sustainable lifestyle changes.”

Having lifestyle and condition coaches available via telephone or telehealth increases the flexibility for participants. However, Vianco notes the Condition and Wellness Program is not designed to replace a primary care provider, but to serve as a form of supplemental care. With a participant’s permission Vianco says a primary care physician can be “looped in” with the program to further enhance efficacy.

Only in its second year, the Wellness Condition and Lifestyle Management Program has more than doubled. In its first year the program only included employees from eight school districts. In addition to district employees, the program is also available to spouses.

With the program expansion, Vianco hopes to see more people take advantage of the provided services. So far, the feedback about the program has been very positive. One individual who went through the program praised the experts who achieve weight loss goals. In an anonymous note to the program the client said achieving weight loss has been a struggle, but the personal wellness coaching is helping to achieve the goals.

Another anonymous comment touted the ease in talking with the specialists through the telehealth system.

“The option for telehealth wellness coaching visits allowed me to be in control of my care,” the client said. “Having the telehealth appointments allowed me to have virtual sessions wherever I was located. Also, I had a phenomenal nurse. She was amazing — charismatic, very knowledgeable ­— and it was not a chore to have these visits regarding my care.”

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