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January 31, 2013 06:08 PM

A Coach For Your Health

sioux falls, sd

When someone tells you they work in health care, chances are you likely think they're a doctor, dentist or physician assistant, but what about a coach?

Health coaches have become more popular in treating health problems like obesity and diabetes.

It may look like fun and games, but 13-year-old Olivia Hamner plays Wii Fit because her coach told her to; her health coach that is.

"She has to be careful because my mom, my dad and I have diabetes," Olivia's mom, Malissa Hamner, said.

That's just one of the reasons Olivia's health coach is encouraging her to dive into more activity. Olivia is looking to drop 70 pounds and also struggles with a heart condition.

"My heart doesn't squeeze and release right," Olivia said.

"They tell you it's not life-threatening. Right now, we're just going to try to work through it and exercise more and see if that helps," Malissa said.

Olivia's health coach, Dana Olsen, is a registered nurse at Sanford Health. She not only provides advice and encouragement, but she also connects her team members with other available health resources.

"If it's somebody who needs assistance with their medication costs, we do that. If it's somebody who needs to be plugged in with local resources, we'll do that," Olsen said.

While Olivia is trying to lose weight and improve her heart condition, others who see health coaches struggle with asthma or high blood pressure.

"We're trying to prevent them from going into the hospital or ER multiple times because they're engaging in their own health care and making better decisions," Olsen said.

Though Olivia's already lost weight, she's gained even more, thanks to her health coach. She now exercises almost every day of the week.

"I'm able to swim longer and run longer," Olivia said.

Health coaches meet with their clients as often as once a week to once a month, depending on the patient's needs. Most people, like Olivia, are referred to health coaches by their doctors.

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