RA coach

In Conversation: Rheumatoid Arthritis Program Coach

by Jaida Temperly 4 minute read

Sidekick Health’s Rheumatoid Arthritis program is designed by rheumatologists, rooted in behavioral science, clinically validated, and uniquely co-developed with people living with RA. The program lives in Sidekick’s mobile app, where it helps people track their activities and work towards achievable goals, learn new ways to manage stress and pain, exercise smarter and eat better, practice mindfulness, and stay on top of medication schedules.

Tuukka, a coach with the RA program, sat down with The Sidebar to discuss his role in a person’s management of RA, how he views digital therapeutics like Sidekick Health, and what he wishes more people knew about managing their RA. 

Welcome to The Sidebar! Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, I’m Tuukka, a health coach for Sidekick’s Rheumatoid Arthritis program. I would describe myself as having a passion for health, with a strong background in sports. (In fact, as a kid I couldn’t sit still, so my parents enrolled me in football, ice hockey, golf, and gymnastics to drain all of my energy, and I eventually went on to play semi-professional golf!) As I grew up, my personal need for movement evolved into a passion for “moving others” through health coaching.

I’ve had a wide variety of experience working with lifestyle and well-being programs, including Personal Training groups and corporate well-being for businesses, as well as working intensively with wellness and health-related data from wearable health tech such as activity bracelets and sports watches. And that’s why I love working with Sidekick’s programs, because it ticks all the boxes from my list: technology, well-being, and coaching. I’ve enjoyed this combination so much that, in addition to coaching, I’m also pursuing my Master’s degree in Health Technology. 

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You’re a coach with Sidekick Health’s Rheumatoid Arthritis program. Can you explain what your role entails and how you interact with people who are managing their RA?

My role as a coach for Sidekick’s Rheumatoid Arthritis program is diverse but my overarching goal is to serve those living with RA by showing how overall well-being can be achieved by small lifestyle and habit alterations. For example, being active doesn’t necessarily mean running a marathon. Instead, a person can increase their physical activity by walking to a further bus stop, instead of the closest one. Or ride a bike instead of driving a car. These are smaller examples, but the core message I strive to convey — and support as a coach — is that people can feel comfortable and find opportunities for well-being regardless of the situation or their circumstances.

Of course, my role also includes specific health coaching. For example, people participating in the RA program can log into the Sidekick app to log their sleep quality, energy levels, stress levels, food intake, and physical activity. As their program coach, I can then review the progression and look for variants or improvement opportunities, and then directly coach them towards their goals by giving them feedback and tips based on their individual needs and inputs.

Can you tell us a bit about Sidekick’s RA program? In your experience, how is the program different from other RA management programs currently available?

Sidekick’s Rheumatoid Arthritis program is a comprehensive program built and validated by doctors, psychologists, and scientists. The introductory program is 16 weeks long, but this can then expand into incorporating Sidekick into a regular daily routine, making it a lifelong health companion. Participants are guided through personalized health tracking, behavioral support tools, coaching support and feedback, and educational wellbeing topics such as chronic pain, mental health, sleep, nutrition, and physical activity. Everything is located inside the all-in-one app via a gamified interface, and is available free of charge for users, which I think is really unique! 

I will also add that, as a coach, I look to see the full picture of well-being and not just the disease symptoms. For example, prompting even small changes such as eating more vegetables and drinking more water can help individuals reach their health goals. I always target my strategy to suit the participants’ needs the best, which again, I think is really unique to Sidekick’s program.

As a coach, what does RA program “success” look like to you? 

From my perspective, a successful journey is not just measured in numbers or by constant progress evaluations. After all, Sidekick’s mission is more than data and outcomes. For me, it’s important that everyone finds new ways of cherishing their wellbeing. For example, our programs can be — and often are — an instant solution to managing chronic illness. But the program can also serve a long-term need, to plant the seed now, which later goes on to grow into a major improvement in wellbeing when the timing or a life situation is better. 

Overall, my mission as a program coach is to offer tools to improve health and disease management which everyone — no matter how they feel — can benefit from. Everyone’s journey is different so there is more than one successful path to go with.

What’s something you wish people knew about managing their RA?

I wish people knew that, besides a good medication plan and regular support from your healthcare team, your own lifestyle choices can help manage disease symptoms. Everyone’s RA experience is different, but even the smallest of changes or alterations can get you closer to your disease management goal. For example, eating healthy and unprocessed food has been shown to have a large impact on sleep quality and feeling energetic, which ultimately translates to a better mood and a reduction in stress. These small acts can really make a difference! 

I would also add that finding a balance and rhythm with a new disease management program like the Sidekick RA program can take time and some hard work, but I promise you that the end results are worth it! Some setbacks might happen during the journey, but it is normal. There is always a way towards the goal.

Thanks so much for joining us on The Sidebar, Tuukka!

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Author: Jaida Temperly