As a health promotion graduate student eager to learn and grow, I was ready to start my tasks as a HERO Forum22 intern and immerse myself in the experience. At that moment, I was unsure of what to expect. During my two-day internship, I made lasting relationships with fellow interns and health promotion professionals and gained valuable insights that will stick with me along my health promotion journey. Through inspirational speakers, I learned the importance of lifestyle medicine, inclusivity, and spirituality in promoting healthier lifestyles for all people.
During the Forum22, Dr. Dexter Shurney discussed the complexity of Lifestyle Medicine. He mentioned that there is much misunderstanding regarding lifestyle medicine and that it is necessary to distinguish it from wellness and lifestyle programs. Lifestyle medicine is almost an umbrella term for health and focuses on the “how to” in helping people achieve their optimal health. According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, there are six pillars:
- Physical activity
- Healthy relationships
- Being substance-free
- Stress management
What is interesting about these pillars is that they personalize health and support people in taking control of their well-being.
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to listen to Jessica Halem, MBA, who talked about inclusive communication strategies within healthcare. Communication matters for health promotion because if we cannot effectively reach people, then any helpful intervention is, in a sense, limited. Halem emphasized the importance of verbiage for inclusivity, specifically for the LGBTQIA+ community, because, as she stated, there are real people and real stories behind every letter of the acronym. In having an understanding and willingness to prioritize saying the correct words and pronouns, health promotion professionals will be taking essential steps to reach more individuals in the populations they serve.
Spirituality & Health Coaching
When I think about spirituality, I often think about religion. However, I did not consider a correlation between spirituality and health coaching. In her session, Barbara Zabawa, JD, highlighted how spirituality is one way that health coaches are trying to avoid legal risks in practicing their services. Health coaches want to help people – yet, they are not licensed and, therefore, cannot diagnose, treat, or try to assess their clients. The way some health coaches get around this fact is through spirituality. The First Amendment signifies having the right to exercise religion, assemble, and speak freely. Learning not only the practices for health promotion is important, but also learning who can practice medicine and healthcare.
I had an incredible experience at HERO Forum 2022. I learned much about who I am and how to promote health in all aspects of life. Therefore, I have five key takeaways from my HERO Forum22 experience:
- Try new things – this was my first time flying by myself. I was nervous and anxious because I did not know what to expect. Stepping out of my comfort zone brought me a rewarding experience.
- You can make a difference – The field of health promotion is more than just one type of profession, such as doctors. All settings, from corporations to hospitals, can promote health.
- Health is not solely physical – When I grew up, being healthy was significantly tied to eating right and working out. There is more to health than the physical side; looking at people’s social, spiritual, and mental health can help them lead healthier and more sustainable lives.
- Find your community – As an online student, I only connect with other students through weekly discussions. The health promotion community welcomes all with open arms, and finding this supportive community can benefit our own health!
- Do not fall for the smoke & mirrors – There is progress in health promotion, which calls for celebrations. Nevertheless, there are still health disparities that hinder people’s chances of living healthy and sustainable lives. We cannot lose sight of our mission.
Thank you, HERO Forum 2022, until we meet again!
Halem, J. (2022, September). ‘Inclusive Communications Strategies: How the choices we influence the choices we make’. HERO Forum 2022. Jacksonville; Florida.
Shurney, D. (2022, September). ‘Inclusive Lifestyle Medicine and Population Health’. HERO Forum 2022. Jacksonville; Florida.
Zabawa, B. (2022, September). ‘Coaching in Spirituality: A Legal Risk or Benefit?’. HERO Forum 2022. Jacksonville; Florida.