Most women at risk for heart disease are aware of the need to improve their nutrition and increase their exercise, but knowledge isn’t always enough. People often feel stuck in unhelpful patterns and see themselves as incapable of developing the self-discipline needed to make recommended lifestyle changes.

To help women explore and move past the emotional barriers that get in the way of their making positive health changes, the Hadassah Medical Center’s Linda Joy Pollin Cardiovascular Wellness Center for Women created an initiative called Group Health Coaching. The program, with the help of group support, empowers participants to feel confident and believe in their ability to follow through with their goals, despite internal and external challenges.

Fourteen women have already participated in an eight-session health coaching group, which incorporated both private and group meetings. They received individualized coaching from a nurse, as well as group education and skills practice from a nutritionist, an exercise coach, and a psychologist. All four of those professionals provided participants with relevant information on healthy living from their respective fields, as well as tools for managing challenges with regard to staying on track and meeting specific goals. In-group experiential exercises offered participants the opportunity to experiment with new techniques for changing old habits, allowing them to experience a sense of empowerment as they discovered ways to address barriers to self-care.

After completing the eight sessions, a large number of the women reported changes in their eating habits and/or increased commitment to regular exercise.

Pollin Center staff report that “although the research literature on health coaching is relatively new, studies suggest that health coaching shows a great deal of promise for enhancing motivation, increasing confidence, and encouraging participants to commit to positive lifestyle changes that reduce risk. Additionally, while the costs of providing individualized health coaching are prohibitive for the healthcare system, group coaching is a cost-effective means of both imparting information and facilitating health behavior change.”