A wellness program for individuals with disabilities: Using a student wellness coach approach

Hui-Ju Young, Ph.D.Melissa L. Erickson, M.S., Kristen B. Johnson, B.S., R.D., L.D., Mary Ann Johnson, Ph.D., Kevin K. McCully, Ph.D.
Disability and Health Journal
Published July 2015 Volume 8, Issue 3, Pages 345–352


Individuals with disabilities are at higher risk of health conditions; thus, there is a need to provide hands-on opportunities for pre-healthcare professionals to interact with individual with disabilities as well as deliver wellness services to this population.


Examine the feasibility and effectiveness of a student-led wellness program for individuals with disabilities.


Thirty-two undergraduate student wellness coaches between the ages of 19–23 years, and fifteen participants with disabilities, ranging in ages from 28 to 74 years were included in this study. Every participant was assigned to at least 1 student wellness coach with the purpose of establishing an individualized wellness plan.


After 3 months (fall 2013 academic semester), all wellness coaches demonstrated improved clinical interaction and confidence toward working with the participants. The participants had an average weight loss of 2.0 ± 2.9 kg, ranging from 0.0 to 9.0 kg. All participants had improved functionality and fitness and reported high satisfaction toward the program.


This study demonstrated the impact of a unique program on the education of pre-healthcare professionals and the overall wellness of participants with disabilities. The program model has the potential to provide clinical health education among pre-healthcare professionals through interacting with individuals with disabilities.