Orange Coast College is launching a first-of-its-kind Integrative Health Coach program this fall that will train students on how to blend traditional medical treatment with alternative and complementary therapies, such as health eating, naturopathic medicine, acupuncture and yoga, through health coaching.
A donation from Susan and Henry Samueli allowed for the development of this groundbreaking program, which is the first in California at a community college and will standardize training and certification in an emerging profession. Integrative health coaches partner with healthcare providers in clinics, hospitals and community based agencies to offer care and support to patients suffering from chronic illnesses. Research has shown that the education and guidance provided by integrative health coaches can successfully combat illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, addiction and more by helping patients learn how to change their health-related behaviors.
"The idea of an integrative health coach is a critical component to helping the average person navigate their health and wellness needs," says Gerald Solomon, Executive Director of the Samueli Foundation. "A health coach serves as not just a navigator, but someone who can be a guide and a mentor with skill and knowledge to be able to help the average person make decisions."
OCC's program will specifically focus on teaching students how to conduct motivational interviewing, and will have two tracks: a two-year Associate degree that aligns closely with other Allied Health programs at the College, and a shorter certificate that can be an addendum to another degree, or serve as additional training for those already working in the medical field. "A big part of the program is focused on helping people learn how to change in an empowering way," says program coordinator Sharyn Konick. "We will be teaching our students how to help patients set and reach goals, and stay on track."
Once they complete the program, graduates will be well-positioned to work in health clinics in Orange County and beyond, partnering with doctors and nurses to provide a link between patients and their healthcare providers. This is a service that can often get lost in the traditional mode of healthcare, with doctors and nurses limited by time constraints and heavy caseloads.
In the past, integrative healthcare has largely been a resource accessible only to wealthy patients, a trend that the Samuelis are hoping to change. "I would love to see health coaches in every clinic, so that doctors and nurses can do what they do best," says Susan Samueli. "I would love to see integrative medicine offered to everyone, not just people who can afford it."