The World Health Organizationhas announced this year’s World Health Day theme is “building a fairer,healthier world.” The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted drastic differences in how people and their greater communities could, or could not, prioritize and protect their health. Many health inequities emerged during the pandemic for essential workers putting themselves at risk for contracting COVID-19 and people in communities lacking equitable access to nutritious food, clean and safe environments, and healthcare resources.
These inequities were present well before the pandemic, and the only way to move forward from this tragic time is to enact change that meaningfully addresses all areas of this inequity to build a fairer, healthier world that allows all people to thrive and protects us during future global pandemics.
Change won’t be easy, but it’s absolutely necessary, especially for Health Coaches who wish to spread the ripple effect of health and happiness through their work.
How Health Coaches create a ripple of positive change
You might be thinking, “Where do I even start?” Here are eight ways you can contribute to creating a fairer, healthier world:
1. Set up a standing donation to an organization(s) of your choice.
Many organizations allow you to choose how much and how often you want to contribute to their cause – whether it’s monthly, quarterly, or annually. Choose an amount and cadence that works for you and your budget, keeping in mind that many donations are tax deductible. Providing funds to organizations with missions you resonate with is a great way to get started working toward a healthier world and can even open opportunities to get involved in person.
2. Carve out time to regularly donate your talent or services.
Setting aside time at a similar cadence as your donations can be an easy way to get involved with causes you care about. A popular option is to volunteer at a local food pantry organizing food items, serving meals, or putting together packaged meals to deliver to those in need. There are also opportunities to host your own food drive, as Claude Harriott, one of our Integrative Nutrition Health Coaches in training, has done during the past year.
If you’re a practicing Health Coach, volunteering your time and services at a local food pantry or food drive is a great way to share your expertise with those you may not have been able to reach previously. Create recipes that utilize the food items sent home with visitors or provide a grocery tour handout that shows how to make the most of a limited food budget.
3. Dedicate time for personal growth as it relates to health equity.
Health Coaches are always learning, staying up-to-date on wellness trends and how to best support themselves and their clients. This means dedicating time to learning more about the factors that can impact someone’s health, whether attending online workshops, reading books, or enrolling in a more comprehensive course at a local college.
There is much more to health than simply the food we eat and the exercise we do, and Health Coaches would be doing clients a disservice by reducing well-being to just these factors. It’s critical that Health Coaches understand all the social determinants of health that impact decisions we make. The racism embedded within our healthcare system and all areas of our communities impacts many of, if not all, these social determinants of health. Learning the roots of this racism, how to combat and eliminate racist practices, and the nuances in language to create more inclusion should be part of a Health Coach’s work and continued learning.
4. Get involved in local government or community groups and advocate for change.
This sounds daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Attend the next PTA meeting at your child’s school to discuss how to implement stress management tools in students’ daily schedules or how others can get involved in developing a holistic health curriculum (like this IIN grad did!). You can also connect with like-minded parents to create a task force focused on organizing speakers from all areas of wellness to give monthly presentations.
If being involved in policy change interests you, find local politicians to understand what they advocate for and how you can get involved. Protecting voting rights is of huge importance, and you can help create voter registration events to further support local candidates.
5. Spark conversations with your friends, family, and community members about issues that are meaningful to you.
As a Health Coach, you now have a platform (whether metaphorical or literal) to share your passion for health and wellness with the world. At IIN, we tell Health Coaches to share who they are and what they do authentically because people resonate with these genuine, personal stories.
For example, if you’re passionate about eating in-season and local, share that with anyone who will listen! Don’t just simply shout, “You should shop at the farmers’ market!” – provide more of your expertise. Email clients (or friends and family) about the benefits of shopping at the farmers’ market, from getting food that’s more nutritious and impacts the environment less than food shipped across the country to supporting the local economy, farmers, and their livelihoods. You could also create free resources to share on social media that include guides to eating in season along with recipes to support readers’ shopping endeavors.
Whatever the cause(s), share it loud and proud; you’ll impact at least one person, who will then go on to share with someone else, starting a positive ripple effect.
6. Take stock of how you communicate with clients as well as family, friends, and community members.
Now that you’re sharing more of what you’re passionate about, take a closer look at how you’re sharing and providing your expertise with the social determinants of health in mind.
For example, let’s say you have a client who has expressed interest in improving dietary habits and you’ve provided them with recommendations, such as incorporating more plant-based options and prioritizing meal prep three days a week. The successful implementation of these recommendations is dependent upon important factors, including but not limited to having access to a grocery store (that sells the recommended products), the ability to travel to the store (safely), a supportive environment at home, and time to make such changes. As a Health Coach, if you’re not taking into account everything in your clients’ lives that affect their decision making, you won't be able to truly address their health holistically.
This applies to anyone in your life you’re providing resources to – you can’t assume you understand or know the unique situations impacting their well-being. Make an effort to break down your own expectations and assumptions to create a more inclusive environment for clients and community members.
7. Implement changes that promote sustainability.
Creating a healthier world means taking care of the earth, and there are many small changes that can make a big impact on our collective health. Changes can start at home, from swapping out single-use plastic bags with reusable totes to reducing food and packaging waste by using a compost bin and investing in quality storage containers. Your new behaviors at home can inspire those closest to you to make similar changes, which is precisely the ripple effect in action.
This can lead to taking bigger action, such as volunteering at a local farm or investing in a plot in your community garden. Learning about important agricultural practices that preserve the land and provide not just food but also jobs and educational opportunities is a great way for Health Coaches to better understand how food choices impact the earth and communities and vice versa. Check out this episode of A Health Coach Explains: Environmental Health for even more information about how Health Coaches can create healthier environments.
8. Show compassion and kindness to everyone you interact with in your community and beyond.
Every person deserves to live a healthy life, regardless of race, ethnicity, sex, gender, or class, with equitable access to all fundamental resources. Entire communities suffer when only portions of its members receive adequate healthcare and other important resources. Those who have what they need must speak up and enact change to help those who do not.
Through their guidance and mentorship, Health Coaches are able to take on this responsibility, eliminating prejudice and judgment from their work and showing compassion and kindness –scientifically proven to benefit health – for all clients who wish to transform their health to live happier lives.
At IIN, we aim to provide our students and graduates with the kind of education needed to make significant change in the world today so they can contribute to an equitable, inclusive, fairer, and healthier world.
IIN Content Writer
Nina holds a bachelor’s in dietetics, nutrition, and food sciences from the University of Vermont, is a graduate of IIN’s Health Coach Training Program, and is an NASM-Certified Personal Trainer.
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