A Critical Examination of the Use of Trained Health Coaches to Decrease the Metabolic Syndrome for Participants of a Community-Based Diabetes Prevention and Management Program

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The epidemic of obesity and diabetes in the United States poses major challenge to the prevention and management of chronic diseases. Furthermore, when this is viewed in other components of the metabolic syndrome (i.e., the burden of high cholesterol and hypertension), the prevalence of the metabolic syndrome continues to rise in the USA continued challenge is how to deal with this epidemic from a medical and public health standpoint. Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) is a unique approach and offers a novel perspective for answering this challenge. A critical set of goals for CBPR is to address health disparities and social inequalities while getting community members engaged in all aspects of the research process. Utilizing the West Virginia Diabetes Prevention and Management Program and trained Health Coaches as a model, we discuss topics of consideration related to CBPR, involving trained health coaches, optimizing early adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors, and enhancing participation. Through careful project planning and design, questions regarding disparities increasing susceptibility and preventive efforts within the community can be addressed successfully. These topics are part of a broader integration of theories such as participatory research, community engagement, and outcomes measurement. The understanding of the pathophysiology and epidemiology of the metabolic syndrome can help frame an appropriate strategy for establishing long-term community-wide changes that promote health. In order to continue to improve investigations for preventing the metabolic syndrome, it will be necessary to have aggressive efforts at the individual and population level for developing culturally sensitive programs that start early and are sustainable in practical environments such as the workplace. In this comprehensive review, we will discuss practical considerations related to project design, implementation, and how to measure effectiveness in regards to reducing the burden of the metabolic syndrome.