Care Management and Wellness Coaching
Understanding your health can be confusing.
Priority Health is here to help!
• Learn to manage your conditions like asthma, hypertension and diabetes
• Connect with resources to help you be your healthiest
• Find an in-network doctor or specialist
• Navigate the health system and coordinate your care
Meet your Care Manager
Christine, RN, BSN, CDE,
is passionate about helping
members get the care they
need to prevent and manage
their health conditions.
Or call 1-(616) 464-8910
One on one telephonic coaching is available to benefit eligible GVSU faculty, staff and spouses at no cost to the member. Topics range from weight and stress management to nutrition. Members contact their provider directly and set goals to accomplish desired behavior changes. Qualified Health Coaches help direct and provide resources to help members meet their goals in a confidential and personalized manner.
DID YOU KNOW?
Starting in October 2018, GVSU medical benefit eligible faculty, staff, spouses and household members will be eligible to earn rewards for partnering with a coach through the new Thrive @ GVSU program.
Email a coach to sign up today
Or, call the 1-800 number on the back of your insurance card
Diabetes Prevention Program
If you have pre diabetes or are at risk to develop type 2 diabetes, you can improve your health and quality of life by participating in a diabetes prevention program. Omada is the online option that is available at no cost to our Grand Valley State University faculty, staff and family members that participate with Priority Health as their insurer. Omada offers the nationally recognized diabetes prevention program proven to reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 71% according to the Centers for Disease Control. Visit the Priority Health website.
Health Coaching Story: Mark Saint Amour
For Mark Saint Amour—center assistant in the Milton E. Ford LGBT Resource Center—wellness has been a life-long journey. Throughout their life, Mark has struggled with body dysphoria and weight, but a health scare in their mid-20s is what ultimately made them commit to a serious lifestyle change. In the past year, they were struggling with mental health, and decided to approach wellness with a more holistic perspective.
Mark’s wellness coach, Sarah, has helped them to work toward their mental, physical, and nutritional goals. She offers affirming support by always respecting their pronouns and identities, which is something they struggled to find before. Mark has since developed a love for physical activity and going to the gym, and enjoys trying new vegan recipes in the kitchen. Sarah has helped Mark to incorporate these activities into their busy schedule in new ways. They love running outside, which can be tough during Michigan winters, but Sarah has encouraged Mark to spend time running in the gym as well. These activities are all allotted in Mark’s calendar, which helps to keep them focused and on track.
Sarah has helped to hold Mark accountable and assist in being their personal support system, but a shift in mindset is what really helped them through this journey. Since adopting a more holistic view on their wellness journey, Mark says, “I don’t do any of these things to feel physically healthier or have a six-pack;” instead, they view their wellness as a loving and supporting way to achieve inner peace and stronger mental health. Mark finds motivation in the different fitness challenges offered on campus, but has been more focused on internal motivators.
“I think the most palpable shift for me has been this way to view exercise and fitness and wellness as not something that brings external motivators, but one that is based on an internal love and honoring of oneself, and I think that’s how I view it now.”
For anyone looking to develop a healthier lifestyle, Mark says, “Don’t start January 1st, or on a Monday, or some arbitrary date or imaginary time that you envision to be some great motivator.” If the motivation is there, they say the most important thing to do is to utilize it in the moment. It’s also important to recognize that this is a long process. It’s unrealistic to think that making a change in our lifestyle habits is going to be easy; there is no quick-fix.
“You are what you feed yourself” is something that has really stuck with Mark through their journey, too. They say, “Your body begins to embody your lifestyle habits, whether we like it or not. If you feed yourself that through the people you hang out with, through the community you have, through the activities you do both inside and outside of work, you’ll see a change. You’ll blink, and you’ll be living that life, and it will feel so easy. I think there’s a way of doing this that doesn’t feel like a drastic change.”
Success Story: Joshua Marko
Before working with a Priority Health wellness coach, Joshua Marko—project manager at the Michigan Small Business Development Center within GVSU’s Seidman College of Business—felt he needed more exercise, better sleep, and an improved diet. When asked why he began working with a wellness coach, Josh says, “Honestly, the financial incentive is what spurred my interest.”
His wellness coach, Frances, helped him to measure his success in working on both short-term and long-term goals. Together, Josh and Frances honed in on Josh’s “keystone habits,” which are defined as habits that have a positive impact on other habits that help to implement lifestyle changes. These keystone habits have helped him to focus on meeting his weekly sleep, meditation and running goals. Joshua says, “The act of measuring those areas gave me a better awareness of the reality of my health habits and was also a motivating factor for staying on track.”
Frances has helped to keep Josh focused and consistent throughout his wellness journey. He says, “After a few months of measuring goals, I had established a lifestyle that consistently includes 8 hours of sleep per night, near daily meditation, and running at least 3 times a week. I’ve lost 10 pounds, knocked more than 3 minutes off my 5k run time, and do weekly meal prep very Sunday; which provides a triple-whammy physical, financial and spiritual benefit.”
“My perspective has changed to be more self-compassionate in celebrating the little success and not beating myself up so much when I stumble.”
Working with a wellness coach changed Josh’s mindset about developing a healthy lifestyle. Improving one’s wellness is a long journey, one that takes baby steps to achieve. “Small and sustainable changes in our wellness take an incredible amount of attention and energy,” he says. Frances has been most helpful to Josh when he’s feeling overwhelmed by work or other family and social commitments; she is always there to encourage him to stay on track with his goals, or to construct more attainable goals as necessary.
Josh says the first step for those looking to change their lifestyle is self-acceptance. After that, it’s all about setting goals and measuring them. He says, “If you’re looking for support in your journey, then contact Priority Health to connect with a coach!”
Success Story: Jim Bell
In May 2017, Jim Bell - theatre professor in the Department of Music, Theatre and Dance - decided he needed to make a lifestyle change in order to stay active and engaged in activities he loves, like hiking, biking, and walking. This prompted him to sign up with a Priority Health wellness coach offered through Grand Valley’s benefit plan, and he has not looked back since.
Before meeting with a wellness coach, Jim was dealing with serious joint pain in his ankles, knees, and hips. Without addressing his weight and changing his lifestyle, he knew these issues would intensify, and he would no longer be able to live the life he wanted. Though he was unsure what to expect from the coaching program, Jim found it to be a safe and encouraging way to hold himself accountable to reach his goals. Over the past year and a half, he has lost 63 lbs, and says, “At 50, I’m in the best shape I’ve been in 20 years!”
Jim’s coach, Shelly, enables him to be in control of his own program; he sets his own goals, and has found enjoyable ways to accomplish them. Along with outdoor activities, Jim plays racquetball every Friday, and likes to workout at the Campus Recreation Center. His journey has ultimately been about changing his diet and increasing his overall activity levels. Whether that be parking a little further from his office, taking the stairs, or choosing the scenic route when walking to class, Jim finds that any little adjustment helps.
"We're much more effective in our jobs and our lives if we're feeling good."
Setting long term goals and being able to see his progress has helped to keep Jim motivated along the way. For others looking to change their lifestyles, he recommends making a long term plan by asking yourself, “where do I want to get to and why,” and then using the tools available in order to reach your goals. Jim hopes that others realize that the wellness coaching program is not just for people who need help, or for people looking to make a lifestyle change, but it’s a good way to get outside help in a way that fits your individual needs.
Success Story: Patricia Stephenson
“I went from ‘I know everything and I don’t need help' to 'I don’t know everything and I do need help.’”
Health coaching is not everyone’s first thought when it comes to improving their health, and that certainly was the case for Patricia Stephenson, an affiliate professor in the Statistics Department, who thought she didn’t need any guidance.
Patricia had been active and athletic for most of her life, but suffered a “series of unfortunate events” beginning with a car accident, then an Achilles tendon injury, “aging lady issues,” and subsequent surgeries. This caused her to gain weight, and her physical problems led her to become mentally discouraged, which prevented her from doing the things she had always done.
She first went through denial because “we humans don’t think we need help.” But eventually, Patricia says, “It felt like I was spinning out of control and I didn’t know how to get back.” She decided to participate in the wellness program and she engaged in three months of health coaching.
“I confess the motivation for this was the financial incentive. Then I met Amy. In those three short months I got hooked because I saw small changes happening.” Patricia credits Amy, her health coach, for getting her through life’s struggles and stresses, big and small. “She held me accountable, but was encouraging and focused on the successes. I thought health coaching was only about diet and exercise, but I have slowly learned that it is far more than that. Health is a holistic endeavor, encompassing all aspects of life.”
However, these changes didn’t happen in one conversation. “[It’s] a continuous dialogue. [Health coaches] need to get to know the specifics of a person’s life in order to make customized suggestions that lead to improvements.” And for Patricia, that was peace. Something as seemingly simple as making lunch had become a stressor, so figuring out how to restructure her day to eliminate further stress allowed more peaceful living. “In my case, getting back in control and reducing the stress and discouragement that had invaded my life required purposeful planning. Amy could see the small places where I could easily incorporate a little change here, a little mindfulness there, in ways that were easy and stress-reducing.”
“It’s quite a gift to have someone available that gives you that personal attention for your unique life.”
In addition to health coaching, Patricia has also participated in group exercise. “I just want to try various classes and see what’s for me and what isn’t.” This is something she suggests to everyone: find what works for you. Even if she can’t make it to a class, incorporating movement into her daily life has become a habit. Patricia laughs and says she and her daughters will pick up dumbbells and do curls while watching Netflix "because Amy says so!”
Realizing just how strong the connection is between every facet of life has made all the difference. “There is a significant tie to things like your mental well-being, eating habits, physical exercise, the stressors in your life, relationships, spirituality, etc. I had a sense of that, but I didn’t know that things were influencing each other nearly as much as they did. Any change, good or bad, can seep into the other areas of my life.” Patricia urges everyone that feels stuck in any way to “tap into this resource and the coaches will help you to appreciate the ripple effect of positive change into your life.”
Success Story: Deborah Bell
“I realized I was not healthy, I had to do something. That was my wake up call.”
Deborah Bell, Records Assistant at GVSU, has always tried to maintain a somewhat healthy lifestyle. At a health fair last year, Deborah took advantage of an opportunity to step on a scale and was devastated by her numbers. Deborah began by making small changes, like cutting back on sweets and giving herself time to get up and walk. However, to obtain the results she wanted she knew she needed accountability. Through the Health and Wellness weight loss resources web page, Deborah found Mercy Heart’s Health Management Resources program, which she says requires “participation, discipline, healthy eating, and exercise.” Thanks to her Health Educator and cheerleader, Caitlin Mitchell, Deborah has made significant progress towards a healthy life.
Since the start of Deborah’s health journey she has lost 50 pounds, improved her total cholesterol by 42 points, improved her triglycerides by 123 points, and reduced her risk of heart disease by 1 point. Deborah is grateful for the support and resources available to her, and says her quality of life has improved and she feels comfortable in her body now. It’s really about healthy eating,” Deborah says. “I remember when Thanksgiving came around, they helped us with portion size.” While Deborah is careful with what she eats, she also doesn’t deprive herself. She says “... they teach you not to deprive yourself because if you feel deprived, that's when you have the opportunity to indulge and overdo it.”
Deborah also started participating more in the Health and Wellness events on campus, such as the Hold It for the Holidays Challenge, to help keep her on track. Deborah’s biggest motivations have been her family, staying active with her children and grandchildren, even going to Planet Fitness with her husband to exercise. She continues to find time to go to the Fieldhouse to use the track, or even just using her break times to walk for 15 minutes. Her advice to others about starting their health journey is to “just start, you never know until you try
Success Story: Janet Mills
“Without yoga I probably would not have been as in tune with my body and would not have felt the lump.”
Last summer, Janet knew something wasn’t right. She fell ill after coming home from a vacation in March, but “could never quite shake it.” From then on, she had a variety of symptoms from feeling cold, with intermittent fevers, to periods of fatigue and respiratory issues.
Trying to figure it out, she had her house checked for black mold and had the ducts cleaned. “I was constantly searching for what was making me feel not right.” Janet had participated in the wellness program and engaged with a health coach, who was helping her through this frustrating process. “She was a kind and thoughtful ear when, by chance, I really needed it.”
“To anyone questioning the health coaching process or having any misgivings about it, I would say to just relax and go for it! It’ll be great.”
Janet has also been a regular yogi, attending two classes a week since they were first offered 10 years ago. “When I do the cobra pose, I can feel something is swollen,” she told her doctor. He had been adamant that she had a virus and just needed time to get over it. Meanwhile she was getting chills in 80 degree weather, and was exhausted just walking from her car into her office at WGVU. He told her to “work yourself harder,” but she knew it just wasn’t like her to feel that kind of fatigue.
So after numerous doctor visits, she had colonoscopy, and the gastroenterologist verified the presence of a lump. Following the discovery, she was put through further testing, and was finally diagnosed with ovarian cancer.
A successful surgery and months of chemotherapy later, Janet is currently cancer-free, and continuing her recovery. “No one knows your body as well as you do. Advocate for yourself. Trust your instincts and take action when you need to. Face whatever it is and move forward.”
Success Story: Scott Grissom
Scott Grissom, Professor of Computer Science at Grand Valley since 1999, attributes much of his success in maintaining a healthy lifestyle to Grand Valley’s health coaching service which he has been participating in for five years. Though he has had a few different health coaches, his most recent health coach has been with him for the past three years. He and his health coach talk every three weeks on the phone, and she helps him to set goals and stay motivated.
“It keeps me accountable [and] active.”
Each May, Scott participates in the Fifth Third Riverbank Run. Although he participates in these runs each year, if it were not for the Couch to 5k Training he joined a few years ago, he would not have been training regularly. His activity in the training program encouraged him to do a few runs a year and stay active in between events.
“Activity reduces my stress and keeps me centered.”
About a month ago, when Scott suffered a back injury he discovered the less active he was, the more irritable he became. Knowing this, he strives to maintain his active lifestyle in order to feel content and reduce stress in his life. Scott is appreciative that Grand Valley offers and promotes so many programs that allow him to do just that!
Success Story: Priscilla Kimboko
“It’s not a matter of age, it’s a matter of choices you make along the way.”
Priscilla Kimboko seemed to have the health cards stacked against her. The stress from a demanding job along with genetic predispositions to things like heart problems, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure would be enough for many people to throw their hands up in defeat. However, the experience of caring for her late husband, her current job as a professor in health and aging, and her health coach, Betsy, made Priscilla aware of what really matters to live a healthy, fulfilling life.
Priscilla moved to West Michigan from Colorado in 2000 to help create the GVSU Office of Graduate Studies and Grants Administration. She was hired as a dean and was overwhelmingly busy. “At one point, I think I wore 10 hats,” she said. Then Priscilla would come home to her husband, Andre, who had diabetes, high blood pressure, and constant back and sciatic pain. He didn’t exercise much nor did much to care for his health. After he was diagnosed with dementia in 2009, Priscilla remembers, “It was such a wakeup call. I made the decision that I’m not going to end up like my husband.” At that point, she returned to a faculty position in the School of Public, Nonprofit & Health Administration (SPNHA) and cared for Andre until he passed away in October 2013.
Once the current wellness program was in place at GVSU, she took advantage of the Know Your Numbers program, and although her report told her what she already knew, Priscilla used it as a baseline to fight her risk factors as much as possible. “I did a lot of my own research, I tried a lot of different things,” she said.
However, it was difficult for her to stabilize her weight. Despite taking exercise programs like yoga and strength building, “the stabilizing did not happen.” That’s when she started talking to a Priority Health coach. Priscilla connected with Betsy, and they hit it off. “Beyond listening, she helps suggest strategies and asks for more details to help me make connections between diet, exercise, sleep, and stress management. She asks, “What could you do differently?” Rather than telling Priscilla what to do and what not to do, Betsy instead asks her to reflect on her choices, think about the desired outcomes, and how they will impact her life in the short and long term. At each call, Betsy asks, “How did it go? What are your goals for next time? How would you rate your ability to accomplish those goals?”
“Believe that you can change. You have to want to, but you can change. I lost 60 lbs., and people who knew me before sometimes don’t recognize me anymore. There’s a lot more life in you than you expect, but you need to intentionally make those changes.”
Priscilla now teaches two classes a semester in the SPNHA master’s degree programs, assists the CCPS Dean’s office on special projects, and coordinates the annual Art and Science of Aging Conference. It’s a challenging but much more manageable workload.
“Every day is a valuable day,” Priscilla said. “I firmly believe that you’re never too old to make changes. And getting old is not a bad thing, it is inevitable. What’s the alternative? Changing your perspective and making better health choices can improve your aging experience.”