An interview with Luis Viera, a health coach working with prediabetics

Aspire blog - Luis Viera - Aspire Health health coaching program

Did you know that Aspire Health Plan and the Diabetes Collaborative of Monterey County have teamed up to help you make meaningful changes in your lifestyle that can reduce your risk of diabetes? Here in Monterey County, close to 50% of adults in Monterey County have prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. We recently sat down with Luis Viera, a bilingual health coach who works with prediabetics through one-on-one coaching and the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) to talk more about his role. He approached this conversation similarly to the way he approaches his work… with great enthusiasm!

1. How do health coaches work with local partners to improve the health of the Monterey County community?

Referrals come to us from health plans and providers such as Aspire Health Plan, Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula/Montage Health and Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHS). Patients are prediabetic meaning they have a high blood sugar level but it’s not high enough to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These at-risk patients have an opportunity for one-on-one, over the phone sessions or to participate in the DPP. Both options teach you about lifestyle modifications — diet, exercise, stress management, sleep patterns — and how they can help lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

2. How does being bilingual help you reach the Latino population here in Monterey County?

It helps tremendously. The Latino population is especially vulnerable to type 2 diabetes and being able to communicate with someone in their native language helps them feel more comfortable opening up. It also helps to understand their culture — lifestyle and background as well as any barriers and challenges. We don’t want people to feel ashamed of their habits. Diabetes carries a stigma in Latino communities, and it’s important to break this stigma.

3. Talk about your role as a health coach. What do you do to help those with prediabetes manage their condition?

Prediabetic patients working with me or another health coach receive an assessment. The assessment helps me to understand them — their literacy surrounding their condition, their current lifestyle, and their readiness to make changes. This helps us decide where to start and from there we interact with one another and develop a trusting relationship. We work on diet, exercise, activity, sleep hygiene, and more, and together we find tools for them to use. I encourage patients to participate in the DPP classes which keep everyone involved. Patients have the opportunity to share with others what worked and what did not, and this gives them a chance to learn from others. In these classes, we’ve seen a lot of progress with weight loss in eleven months to one year. We try to offer classes at various times so that people can attend.

4. Healthcare is about much more than just doctors’ appointments and prescription medication. Holistic health is about caring for the whole person. How does the DPP take a holistic approach to treating prediabetes?

The DPP treats the lifestyle, not just the condition. We look at what’s underneath. What’s happening in a patient’s life that has an impact on their health such as emotions, stress, or other issues? For patients, it’s always good to get support from their family, and making positive changes can even help better unify a family. Also, as a health coach, if there is something that goes beyond my usual scope, I work with a team of health coaches, care managers, and social workers and can refer patients to the resources that they need.

5. What would you say to Aspire Health Plan and community members who are unaware of the DPP in Monterey County to encourage them to learn more?

Living in Monterey County gives you privileges and opportunities to improve your lifestyle. The DPP has been offered for two years, and it is one of many free or low-cost prevention services available to our community. The DPP requires you to take charge and make sustainable changes beyond just diet and exercise. You have the power to make these changes — are you ready to make them?

For Luis, the part of his work that he finds most rewarding is when he sees patient’s progress and results. “I have it in my blood and my heart to assist people,” he says with a smile. “I didn’t find health coaching, health coaching found me.” To hear more about some of these results, watch this video with José, an Aspire Health Plan member who worked with Luis on lifestyle modifications to help prevent type 2 diabetes.

As an Aspire member, you have no-cost access to an enhanced care team and the Diabetes Prevention Program. Call us today to find the next available class and to enroll in the program (831) 644-7490.


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