By: Tyler Herrod

Editor’s Note: This piece is the first of four student essays about their experiences participating in Health 1,2,3’s classroom to community 4th level component. See here to learn more about this new program.

One of the reasons I chose to study at Emory was because health is a constant focus, regardless of major. Unique to Emory, all entering undergraduates have general education requirements to take both a peer led Health 100 class as well as two semesters of exercise, yoga, or dance classes. The structure of the Emory undergraduate curriculum is designed with the goal of encouraging enrolled students to take care of their physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. So, what about the faculty and staff? This net of health and wellness extends to them as well, although many Emory University or Emory Healthcare employees are not necessarily aware of all the resources available to them.

Through a partnership with Healthy Emory, a student health coaching program was created to offer selected Emory undergrad students that have completed the Health 1,2,3 peer-health partner training, such as myself, to undergo a 4th level of community engagement.

The program is designed to help students translate evidence-based knowledge learned in the classroom to their lived experiences, thereby enhancing their immediate health and well-being with the potential to establish habits beneficial across their post-graduate lives.

The three-part Health 1, 2, 3 series – Health 100, Health 200, and Health 300 – encourages students to take an active and comprehensive role in the improvement and maintenance of their health and well-being while developing foundational knowledge in the science of health. The program is designed to help students translate evidence-based knowledge learned in the classroom to their lived experiences, thereby enhancing their immediate health and well-being with the potential to establish habits beneficial across their post-graduate lives. Students who complete the series of three courses experience discovery and exploration of health from the sequential perspectives of a student in the class and as a class leader, developing an array of pedagogical skills including but not limited to presentation, discussion facilitation and active learning techniques.

Through the 4th level, we were trained to become student health partners that helped Emory employees via brief 1 on 1 health coaching interactions. All Emory employees are offered free biometric screenings, dubbed Know Your Numbers events, where they come out with measurements like height, weight, BMI, body fat percentage, waist circumference, HDL and total cholesterol, and fasting or post-load blood glucose. Many of these employees desire additional information to fully understand what their numbers mean for their current lifestyle. That is where we come in.

Tyler Herrod working as a student health partner.

We tailor each coaching interaction to the individual and work to build a rapport, review priorities, illuminate character strengths, explore strategies and resources, and work together to formulate an achievable health goal. These employees ranged the spectrum from having high cholesterol to those wanting to improve their sleep. For every individual, Emory offers programs and resources to benefit their specific needs.

Specifically, two resources that often came into conversation were the Diabetes Prevention Program and the Healthy Emory Connect platform (powered by Virgin Pulse). Through the diabetes prevention program, eligible employees can take part in a free intervention where they attend classes and incorporate better physical activity practices and nutrition into their lifestyle. This program is modified after a randomized control trial that discovered that pre-diabetics undergoing a similar exercise and nutritional lifestyle intervention had a 58% lower incidence of type 2 diabetes compared to a placebo group (Knowler et al., 2002). While this resource is only available to qualifying members of the Emory community, the Healthy Emory Connect platform is available for all employees.

Serving as a hub for all things related to health and wellbeing, Healthy Emory Connect is a place to monitor nutritional intake, track physical activity, monitor sleep and mindfulness, connect with colleagues, form goals, and earn medical plan incentives. Additionally, Healthy Emory has worked with Virgin Pulse to rollout a new Journeys program that allows employees to improve their health in a variety of areas. Journeys works by giving employees small daily tasks to do that become more and more difficult as the program progresses in order to accomplish a goal that the individual has set for themselves.

While I’m sure all of these programs have been shared in various HR meetings and emails to staff, the 1-on-1 coaching interactions really seemed like they will make an impact in eventual uptake for some of these resources. These simple, yet personal, conversations allowed individuals to work to understand their current state of health better as well as be guided towards a program that is tailored specifically to their needs and health goals. By connecting employees with resources that work for them, they will no doubt be preventing many chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer which all have lifestyle risk factors. Fortunately, Emory has quite a lot to offer their employees, and it is clear that Emory is continuously working to improve the resources available so that their employees will live a healthier tomorrow.

To learn more about the Health 1,2,3 program or how to get involved with the 4th level experience, e-mail Health 1,2,3 Program Director, Lisa DuPree at madupre@emory.edu

Reference

  1. Knowler et. al (2002). Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. N Engl J Med. 346(6):393-403.

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