Approximately two years ago, the World Health Organization sounded the alarm on the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, as we ease into the recovery phase with dialed back restrictions, people continue to experience feelings of depression and anxiety. Some experts anticipate a long-term impact on people’s mental health as it will take time to overcome the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic and its fallout.

A study published in JAMA in September 2020 indicated depression rates tripled among adults in the US during the beginning of the pandemic compared to the year prior (Ettman et al., 2020). More recent studies do not paint a much better picture; they show that the lingering increased anxiety, depression (Wu et al., 2021), and sedentariness (Ali & Kunugi, 2020) are persisting. The repercussions of this to our health care systems, workplace productivity, and overall economy are still unknown (Kaye et al., 2021).

Depression is a major cause of absenteeism, presenteeism, disability, and productivity loss among working-age adults (Dobson et al., 2019). The pandemic has further compounded issues with personal wellbeing by adding additional challenges for people in the management of chronic conditions (e.g., diabetes & cardiovascular disease) and engaging in positive self-care activities.

NexJ Health focuses on wellness, person-centered care, and the value of engaging in positive health behaviors to help people improve their mental and physical health and realize their optimal self. Our health coaching programs are designed for the whole person, are grounded in research, and delivered to diverse populations with great partners. The evidence base that we have supported across diabetes (Wayne et al., 2015), mental health (Ritvo et al., 2021), and cancer survivorship (Alibhai, et al., 2019), among other conditions, demonstrates how health coaching through NexJ Connected Wellness is effective at improving clinical outcomes for a range of chronic conditions.

NexJ Health, in partnership with Manulife, launched a Virtual Health Coaching pilot program available to select Manulife’s Group Benefits Members and their own employees. The program is focused on plan members in need of support managing type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic pain, and mental health and does so from a polychronic, person-centered perspective (considering multiple conditions and the person as a whole). By offering the program to plan members in a personalized way that addresses their unique chronic health needs, they are taking important steps to address the impact of chronic disease upstream, which can impact absenteeism and disability and improve Plan Member health. Participants connect with a personal health coach through our virtual care platform, NexJ Connected Wellness, where they work together to define their health goals and adopt new healthy behaviors, as they work to improve their wellbeing and reduce the risk of complications connected to their chronic conditions. Health coaching is reinforced with video coaching sessions, secure messages, evidence-based educational content, online exercise and mindfulness classes, and behavior and symptom tracking on the virtual care platform.

Program feedback so far has been excellent, and outcomes will begin to be collected over the next few months. Here is a quote from a current participant, “I had the opportunity to join this program in September 2021. This has been such a great experience. My coach is a great listener, and she asks the right questions to make sure that NexJ is offering its best service for my needs. I enjoy the NexJ App very much for its flexibility on the trackers. I was never able to find trackers that could help with uncommon medical conditions and medication dosage that varies every day. Having access to the library, workbooks and exercise videos are a great way to keep this program even more interactive. My way of thinking about overall wellness has certainly changed in the past months. Thank you.”

Click here to learn more about the Virtual Health Coaching program.  


Ali, A. M., & Kunugi, H. (2020). COVID-19: A pandemic that threatens physical and mental health by promoting physical inactivity. Sports Medicine and Health Science, 2(4), 221–223.

Alibhai, S. M. H., Santa Mina, D., Ritvo, P., Sabiston, C., Krahn, M., Tomlinson, G., Matthew, A., Segal, R., Warde, P., Durbano, S., O’Neill, M., & Culos-Reed, N. (2015). A phase II RCT and economic analysis of three exercise delivery methods in men with prostate cancer on androgen deprivation therapy. BMC Cancer, 15(1), 1–11.

Dobson, M., Schnall, P., Rosskam, E., & Landsbergis, P. (2019). Work-Related Burden of Absenteeism, Presenteeism, and Disability: An Epidemiologic and Economic Perspective. Handbook of Disability, Work and Health, 1–22.

Ettman, C. K., Abdalla, S. M., Cohen, G. H., Sampson, L., Vivier, P. M., & Galea, S. (2020). Prevalence of Depression Symptoms in US Adults Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic. JAMA Network Open, 3(9), e2019686.

Kaye, A. D., Okeagu, C. N., Pham, A. D., Silva, R. A., Hurley, J. J., Arron, B. L., Sarfraz, N., Lee, H. N., Ghali, G., Gamble, J. W., Liu, H., Urman, R. D., & Cornett, E. M. (2021). Economic impact of COVID-19 pandemic on healthcare facilities and systems: International perspectives. Best Practice & Research Clinical Anaesthesiology, 35(3), 293–306.

Ritvo, P., Knyahnytska, Y., Pirbaglou, M., Wang, W., Tomlinson, G., Zhao, H., Linklater, R., Bai, S., Kirk, M., Katz, J., Harber, L., & Daskalakis, Z. (2021). Online Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Intervention for Youth With Major Depressive Disorders: Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 23(3), e24380.

Wayne, N., Perez, D. F., Kaplan, D. M., & Ritvo, P. (2015). Health Coaching Reduces HbA1c in Type 2 Diabetic Patients From a Lower-Socioeconomic Status Community: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 17(10), e224.

Wu, T., Jia, X., Shi, H., Niu, J., Yin, X., Xie, J., & Wang, X. (2021). Prevalence of mental health problems during the COVID-19 pandemic: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Affective Disorders, 281, 91–98.

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