More and more, doctors and other healthcare providers are embracing preventive medicine and encouraging lifestyle changes for their patients.
To that end, "wellness" training programs—which teach medical professionals to treat the entire person and to educate the populace about preventive medicine and smart lifestyle choices—are springing up all over Maryland.
“In a more traditional approach," says Cheryl Walker of the Tai Sophia Institute in Laurel, "the medical professional is the center of care and treats only the physical condition. The approach of health-and-wellness coaching puts the patient at the center and the coach as a partner working together with the patient. We are empowering the person to take charge of his/her life.”
Adds Dr. Tom Pellinger, assistant professor for the graduate program in applied health physiology (AHPH) at Salisbury University, "Wellness is a very broad concept encompassing numerous dimensions.
“A major emphasis of 'wellness' is its focus on proactive behavior. Faculty and students in the AHPH program are trained to help people develop behaviors—such as regular, appropriate exercise and a healthy diet—that reduce the risk of injury and/or disease. An overarching emphasis of our program is prevention. For the most part, traditional medicine practices are reactive.”
"Just like the rest of the country," continues Walker, "people in Maryland are getting more and more unhealthy. As the field of health-and-wellness coaching becomes more understood, there will be an increasing demand within the state for qualified coaches to work in corporate wellness programs, in insurance companies, in medical practices, and in spas and gyms, just to name a few."
The Health and Wellness training programs at Tai Sophia and Salisbury University are only two of the many such offerings currently available in the Free State.
"Our [AHPH] graduate program, and others like it," says Pellinger, "improve the caliber of health and wellness professionals practicing in Maryland. Maryland employers who hire these professionals, as well as Maryland residents who are treated by these professionals, are direct beneficiaries of the AHPH program."
Pellinger believes the majority of graduates from the Salisbury program end up practicing professionally within the state. Walker maintains that, among Tai Sophia graduates, the proportion is between 75-85 percent.
"It is no secret that our current healthcare system is broken, and we must engage in new models," Walker says.
"At Tai Sophia, we have been teaching people that our symptoms are our teachers and that our bodies are wise. If you have a headache, your body may be signaling that you need more sleep or to drink more water.
“If you listen to the early symptoms and heed what your body is saying, the symptoms may not escalate to a full-out illness. With the astronomical cost of healthcare, a new model calls for all of us to take charge of our own health and to be more proactive in staying healthy."