Does lifestyle coaching truly make a difference?
For those who are already coaching, on the path to becoming a coach, or are otherwise working in the wellness space, the answer is likely a resounding yes.
Still, there are always tough days and disheartening statistics that might make us question what exactly the impact of lifestyle coaching is.
Yet there is also robust research and literature documenting how lifestyle coaching positively impacts individuals, their communities, and society at large in a variety of ways. Lifestyle coaches play a vital role in patient education, motivation, and accountability that can help turn the tide and prevent further escalation of the preventable disease of type 2 diabetes.
A disease like type 2 diabetes — which can create a cascade of negative effects from decreased mental and emotional health to economic difficulties to a lowered life expectancy — needs inspired, committed, powerful agents of change to work against it.
Recent research published in JAMA indicates that cases of both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are surging among American youth. Between 2001 and 2017, cases of type 1 diabetes went up by 45% among youth aged 0-19 years old while cases of type 2 diabetes doubled.
We’re at a critical moment when it’s still possible to prevent further surging among the youngest and most vulnerable of our population. Remember that type 2 diabetes is largely the result of lifestyle changes. With every person you inform and inspire to change, others in their lives may be affected by their example.
In this article, you’ll learn about the social impact of type 2 diabetes, including how it affects quality of life and life expectancy. In addition, you will see how lifestyle coaching can help counteract these effects.
Type 2 Diabetes and Quality of Life
While the disease itself takes a heavy toll on physical health, it can impact an individual’s entire life experience, from their mental health to their relationships to their pocketbooks. Unfortunately, those who are most vulnerable to the disease tend to be low-income, which means they won’t have as much power to mitigate the disease’s negative effects. This can severely impact their quality of life.
A 2017 study published by the World Journal of Diabetes defines quality of life as consisting of physical, mental, psychological, cogitative, and social components. The authors outlined numerous effects of diabetes that weren’t strictly an effect of the disease itself, including high comorbidity with depression and even dementia.
According to the study, those living with diabetes also risk straining their relationships, which can weaken their social support network. Authors noted that “[When] the diabetic interacts with the family environment and social net (friends, relatives and acquaintances), sometimes family acts like diabetes police, and other times family doesn’t want to participate in patients' struggle for better glycemic control. Even worse, they undermine patient’s efforts.”
They go on to describe how patients may respond to this lack of support with aggression or refusal to cooperate, which can lead to “loss of social support, loss of belief in self-efficacy, poorer glycemic control, depression, smoking, alcohol use and abuse, [and] consequently complications and comorbidities and dramatic deterioration of [quality of life].”
It’s clear that diabetes does so much more than just impact a patient’s health — it affects their communities. That means that lifestyle coaching has the potential to positively impact the lives not just of patients but of patient communities. The more coaches can guide people in a healthier direction, the less strain they may have on their families and friends, on their pocketbooks, and on healthcare systems.
How Much Does Diabetes Cost?
According to the CDC, diabetes is the most expensive chronic condition in the country. They state that "$1 out of every $4 in US health care costs is spent on caring for people with diabetes. $237 billion is spent each year on direct medical costs and another $90 billion on reduced productivity. The total economic cost of diabetes rose 60% from 2007 to 2017."
The American Diabetes Association says that 67.3% of diabetes coverage is government-provided (via Medicare, Medicaid, and military insurance). 30.7% is paid by private insurance, and 2% is paid by the uninsured. While the uninsured have 60% fewer office visits and 52% fewer medications, they have 168% more emergency room visits than those with insurance, they said.
Unfortunately, patients from marginalized communities tend to have both higher rates of diabetes and fewer resources to combat its costly health effects. A study found that “type 2 diabetes is part of a cyclical process: It both results from and contributes to adverse outcomes. Poverty and material deprivation, defined as a lack of resources to meet the prerequisites for health, may play a key role.”
They go on to discuss how poverty and marginalization create chronic stress, which has both psychological and physiological effects. Psychologically, stress impacts self-esteem, increases depression and anxiety, and can lower a person’s motivation to make healthy choices. Physiologically, it can increase blood pressure, cortisol, and blood glucose.
What’s more, these vulnerable patients may experience even more negative effects. Without enough resources, they may find it impossible to make healthy changes to their lifestyle. Their health condition can also affect their employment and education, leading to even further poverty and an inability to pay for healthcare to manage the condition.
If all of this seems upsetting to you, know that you have the power to help prevent or slow down the development of type 2 diabetes before it escalates into an emergency. Lifestyle coaches are among the most needed wellness professionals in the country. Never underestimate the difference you can make in patients' lives.
How Effective Is DPP Coaching?
It’s easy to get overwhelmed or upset when looking at exactly how type 2 diabetes impacts patients and communities. Yet there’s a lot of reason to hope! DPP coaching works, not just in the immediate term, but also in the long-term. Lifestyle coaching matters.
There have been numerous clinical trials and studies demonstrating its efficacy. The DPP Clinical Trial funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) together with the CDC tracked 1,079 participants. It included personal coaching, a 16-session curriculum, and supervised physical activity. The result was that the group experienced a 58% reduction in the rate of diabetes.
A 15-year follow up study found that diabetes was reduced by 27% by the group that experienced intervention and stated that “cumulative diabetes incidences” were 55% in contrast with 62% in those who had not had a lifestyle intervention.
There’s ample evidence that diabetes prevention, whether with DPP or not, works. A prominent study examining the effects of lifestyle intervention on patients with impaired glucose tolerance or early stage type 2 diabetes found that dietary changes and physical activity significantly improved symptoms. More than 50% of subjects with impaired glucose normalized their glucose levels, and more than 50% of patients with early stage diabetes were in remission six years later.
An analysis of Diabetes Prevention Recognition Program (DPRP) data between 2012 and 2016 indicated that lifestyle prevention has significant positive effects. Out of 14,747 participants involved in 220 CDC-approved organizations that attended at least four sessions, 35.5% achieved over 5% weight loss. 41.8% achieved 150 minutes of exercise a week.
National DPP says that studies from countries across the globe such as China, Finland, Greece, Japan, Europe, Australia, and India all support the ability of lifestyle modification in preventing type 2 diabetes.
The DPP Approach
The DPP curriculum has solid backing by leading experts in the field of diabetes prevention. It’s an evidence based approach that tackles diabetes prevention proactively via lifestyle education, modification, tracking, and motivation.
According to DPP, participants can expect to cut their risk for developing type 2 diabetes by 58% or even 71% if they are age 60 or older. They do this through simple lifestyle practices — healthier eating and 150 minutes of physical activity every week. Participants can expect to lose between 5% and 7% of their body weight.
It has partnered with the CDC and numerous public and private institutions to deliver high-quality services and reach vulnerable populations such as through Medicare-covered services at local YMCAs. Having the right infrastructure to deliver services can help lifestyle coaches keep patients participating more frequently and for a longer period, which has been associated with more beneficial results.
The year-long program includes in-person and online options and includes a minimum of 16 weekly sessions within the first 6 months and at least 6 monthly sessions within the second 6 months. Creating a uniform curriculum that has high quality standards is a hallmark of DPP, which helps coaches help patients more clearly and effectively.
Committing to a career in lifestyle coaching is an incredibly powerful act that can save lives and make life worth living for many on the cusp of type 2 diabetes.
While the effects of type 2 diabetes are devastating, all it takes is simple lifestyle modification, alongside support, encouragement, and inspiration.
Make a Difference with Realizing DPP
Your patients need support, education, and inspiration to make lifestyle changes — and you need the same to succeed as a lifestyle coach! Building a network of other wellness warriors who are helping heal their community will make your work easier, more enjoyable, and more effective. Realizing DPP was made to help coaches like you be successful. Join us today!