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Eau Claire woman kicks the habit after 50 years with help from health coach at Security Health

When a doctor told Lisa she was one of very few patients he knows that smoked cigarettes for as long as she had and didn’t need to use supplemental oxygen to live, Lisa took note. After smoking for over 50 years, the message sunk in and she knew it was time to quit.

However, quitting was much easier said than done. Lisa tried quitting numerous times over the past five decades, but was never successful – until now.

With support from her doctor, personal determination and support from her Security Health Plan health coach, Lisa smoked her last cigarette on March 22, 2021. While Lisa did the work, she credits Security Health Plan health coach Angie for helping her succeed.

“When my doctor said that I sat up a little straighter,” Lisa said. “I tried quitting in the past, but it never worked.”
Then Lisa stumbled upon information about getting help from her health insurance company’s health coaching program and she reached out. Lisa was new to Security Health Plan, having joined the plan less than a year ago and started to work with Angie in January.

Lisa said her road to quitting was like a series of dominoes.

“I received the COVID-19 vaccine shot, a few days later, I had some adverse reactions to it which led me to see my cardiologist,” she said. “My heart was fine but something was amiss. The cardiologist referred me to a pulmonary visit. My lungs were great. But that one comment the pulmonary doctor said gave me pause: he told me most people he sees my age and had smoked as long as I had were on oxygen. I was exceptionally lucky with my genes. Why was I smoking? We discussed this at length. If I hadn't had the reaction from the vaccine, I wouldn't have had the meeting with the pulmonary doctor. He wouldn't have said those words that affected me and led me to Angie.”

Lisa added, “Life happens and events happen for a reason, we don't see it that way most of the time, but this time I paid attention to that series of events. It changed my life.”

Angie explained Security’s health coaches receive training in a technique called motivational interviewing. This conversation style allows coaches to find out what motivates a member so they can use that information to help members reach their goals.

“My first impression of Angie was how pleasant her voice is,” Lisa recalls. “She sounds so kind. She never interrupted me and would just let me ramble, and I do ramble. She also just laughed at my frequent subject changes – I was very nervous.”

Over time the health coach worked with the Eau Claire resident to quit her smoking habit – and while there were hiccups along the way, Lisa was successful.

“While working with Angie we tried lozenges, patches, gum – and I say ‘we’ because I truly felt we were in this together. Angie was there to support me,” Lisa said. “But none of it worked. So when I decided to try the medication my doctor recommended I told Angie and I could picture her jumping up and down. There was lots of excitement in her voice.”

Lisa told Angie she had tried medications to stop smoking in the past, but didn’t like the way they made her feel, so she stopped taking them. Angie addressed her concerns and they talked through potential side effects and ways to minimize them if they arose.

“I think it worked this time because of Angie’s support,” Lisa said. “She kept telling me of different ways help was available. She would share her knowledge and she would give me ideas to make success mine. I didn’t feel like I was a number when I worked with Angie. And it never felt like she was reading a script. She never rushed me and there never seemed to be a time limit when we were talking. I just knew she was there if I needed to talk with her.”

Angie could not speak more highly of Lisa’s determination.

“It was clear from the start that Lisa knew she had gotten to a point where there was no going back. The key determining factor when it comes to nicotine cessation, and I tell this to so many, is that failure only comes if you give up. Lisa had no ‘give up’ in her. That is something I truly admire about Lisa. She was open to trying new things, new ideas and excited about making each success along the way a celebration. We had a lot of fun each time we spoke - and that’s important. This was, and is, an exciting time for Lisa; she has so much to be proud of.” Angie reiterated that for Security Health Plan members, reaching your health goals isn’t something you have to do alone.

Angie Pero“As health coaches, we listen, support and help our members find paths that help them feel their best through healthy lifestyle changes,” Angie said. “We help guide and identify ways around barriers so they can find it possible within themselves to make changes. We are a voice of accountability; we are motivators; someone to share both their successes and struggles. I always say, ‘we don’t pull you up the mountain; we give you that extra push from behind.’ We want to help our members find success with their health goals and make them feel empowered to be able to maintain these changes for life.”

Lisa said her initial quit goal was February – but she did not achieve it. She said she was surprised at how supportive Angie was despite her failure.

“She told me the only way you will succeed is if you keep trying,” Lisa said. “She said if I quit trying, I would not quit smoking. It was really motivational. Try and try again was her mantra.”

Angie said helping people like Lisa find they can achieve better health and live a happier life is why she loves being a health coach.

“When we feel better, our entire life can be better. It is an amazing feeling to be part of helping someone find those changes in their life and gain the benefits,” Angie said.

“Security’s program is so strong because the company as a whole strives to make its members the top priority each and every day. She said Security Health Plan views each member as an individual, with a story to tell, with unique life experiences that shape who they are. We recognize their experiences drive them to be who they are today,” she said. “Our organization has, at our very core, an appreciation for each member and values them for who they are. Here, you know you can always be treated that way.”

Lisa said the program worked – and she wasn’t new to health coaching. She said she worked with a health coach from another organization in the past.

“I truly recommend Security Health Plan’s health coaching program to anyone trying to quit smoking,” Lisa said. “It works. This is something that will work for those who have tried to quit in the past but didn’t succeed. This program taught me that it is possible if you keep trying.”
Angie reminds all Security Health Plan members that the health coaching program is completely free and members can easily opt-in with a simple phone call or click of the mouse.

“That’s unheard of,” Angie said of the free program. “Security is unique in that we’re an HMO looking out for the wellness of our members and offer health coaching as an extra wellness benefit. Once a member agrees to participate in the program, we work together in identifying key changes the member wants to make and identifying goals that will lead them toward finding success with that goal. Together we find what intrinsically motivates them so any changes made are both realistic and lifelong. We then check in with the member every couple of weeks to provide regular supportive accountability to keep the member moving forward toward their goal. Our purpose is to help the member both see that they have the power within themselves to change and can continue tapping into this power to maintain their changes for the long haul.”

Pero added that Security’s health coaching program goes beyond nicotine cessation.

“As health coaches, we also help our members with weight management, increasing their physical activity, healthful eating, stress management and more. We are here to meet our members’ wellness needs – whatever they are.”

To learn more about Security’s health coaching program go to www.securityhealth.org/wellness/health-coaching or call 1-800-472-2363 (TTY 711) and ask to speak with a health coach.