Virtual Coach: HealthMatters Program – Join Virtual Coach: HealthMatters Program – January 2024 Application is CLOSED.

Important dates

  1. Deadline to Apply – January 12th, 2024
  2. Application decision – January 19th, 2024
  3. Deadline to register for training – January 26th, 2024 (hard deadline)
  4. Optional Welcome Webinar – February 6th, 2024 (1pm-2pm CT) – accepted Organizations only
  5. Option 1 Training Webinar | Tuesday, February 13th, 2023 (1pm-4pm CT)
  6. Option 2 Training Webinar| Wednesday, February 14th, 2024 (10am-1pm CT)


Contact information

Other questions? Contact Jasmina Sisirak at

What is Virtual Coach: HealthMattersTM Program?

  • An evidence based, behavior change health promotion program that provides community based service providers and frontline staff strategies and materials to support healthy options and choices among people with intellectual and developmental disability (IDD)..
  • Consists of a (1) HealthMatters Program Virtual Instructor Certification; (2) 12-week program  that includes 36 interactive online or paper-based health education lessons and physical  activity videos for people with IDD.
  • Provided free for 12-months, grant awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and  Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion,  The Healthy Brain Initiative Award #1 NU58DP006782-01-00 to the HealthMattersTM Program at the Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois  Chicago.

Virtual Coach: HealthMattersTM Program directed by Jasmina Sisirak, PhD, MPH and Beth Marks, PhD, RN, FAAN

What will you get with the Virtual Coach: HealthMattersTM Program?

  • HealthMattersTM Program Virtual Instructor Certification** a 3-hour webinar training for support staff to use the following strategies and resources to improve health behaviors and health status of people with IDD:
    • online Virtual Coach: HealthMattersTM Program using Google Classroom;
    • paper-based Health Matters Curriculum; and,
    • Program Plan for your Virtual Coach: HealthMatters Program.

**Certification will be received upon completion 3-hour webinar and Program Plan activities and Lesson 1 in Google Classroom (3 additional hours).
**Six (6) CEUs/CPEUs provided for Advance Practice Nurses, Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LSW, LPC, LCPC), Licensed Dietitian Nutritionists (RD), Nursing Home Administrators, Occupational Therapists, Physical Therapists, Qualified Intellectual Disabilities Professionals (QIDP), Speech Language Pathologists, and Illinois Teachers (CPDUs). $15 per person for CEUs.

  • Online Classroom Materials in the Virtual Coach: 12-Week HealthMattersTM Program in Google Classroom an online single access point to 36 lessons, resources, and support which allows for an interactive communication, feedback and collaborative learning. Participating organizations will receive technical assistance by the national HealthMattersTM Program Team members.
  • Health Matters: The Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum for People with Developmental DisabilitiesA complimentary paper curriculum, which mirrors Google Classroom for all participating organizations to teach people with IDD to understand, consider, and communicate health options and choices.

HealthMattersTM Program and all of its components is an evidence-based Administration on Community Living (ACL) approved health promotion program designed specifically for and by the people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. With over two decades of research and translation into community sites serving people with IDD, we have reached over 10,000+ people with IDD and over 2800 support staff across 35 states and 8 countries.

Who can participate?

Up to 10 organizations may participate. These include, but are not limited to the following:

  1. Community based organizations (including schools and recreational centers) who provide services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (day and residential programs)
  2. Project SEARCH school to work transition sites
  3. Managed Care Organizations, AAA, SNAP-Ed, etc 

What do you need to consider to participate?

You will need to complete a brief online Application so we can get to know you, your needs and capacity better. The application also helps you plan health promotion activities in your organization and understand the expectations of the Virtual Coach: HealthMattersTM Program. In order to participate, consider the following items:

  • Obtain support from your Executive Director to ensure buy-in and program continuity.
  • Have a good idea where and how many participants with IDD may participate (recommended 4-6 participants per group at the time).
  • Ensure staffing capacity.
    • Build a team of at least 2-3 staff members (this will depend on the number of groups/homes participating and your capacity to support them).
    • Devote 6-10 hours for initial planning and training.
    • Be able to devote 4-6 hours per week to the Virtual Coach: HealthMatters Program (this includes preparation time).
  • Ensure technology capacity.
    • Computers, smart TV, tablets for each team that will participate.
    • Access to the Internet.
    • Ability to view Google Classroom and YouTube.
    • Set up Gmail email account. Each team will need to set up Gmail account. This account will be used to access Google Classroom for your team. For example, if you have multiple houses participating, it is recommended to have one Gmail account per house (e.g. chitown_house1, chitown_house2 or you can get creative!). To protect privacy, please do not use your personal Gmail accounts.
  • Supplies, space, and equipment capacity.
    • A room/space to exercise.
    • Exercise mats, weights (we can discuss this more).
    • Printer to print handouts (optional).
  • Start your Virtual Coach: 12-week HealthMattersTM Program within 2 weeks of the webinar training. Please see webinar training dates below.

When do you attend HealthMattersTM Program Virtual Instructor Certification training webinar?

Your team will need to pick ONE of the two options below to attend webinar training:

Option 1 | Tuesday, September 19th, 2023 (1pm-4pm CT)
Option 2 | Wednesday, September 20th, 2023 (10am-1pm CT)

  1. Online training platform: Zoom.
  2. Materials to print: PowerPoint training slides (emailed to your Program Coordinator).
  3. Mailed materials: Health Matters: The Exercise and Nutrition Health Education Curriculum.

You will need to print the PowerPoint slides and have the Curriculum available for the webinar training.

How do I access online Application?

  • Complete Online Application (Deadline to apply is January 12th, 2024 end of business day. Approved Organizations will be contacted by January 19th, 2024).
  • We encourage Provider Organization HealthMattersTM Program Team to meet to review Application Instructions and to collaboratively examine their existing efforts, capacity, and needs prior to beginning their applications.
  • You must answer below questions via online application. You may prefer to draft the answers prior to submitting them online.
    1. Please describe how you see Virtual Coach: HealthMattersTM Program as part of your organizational Strategic Plan. What potential challenges do you foresee and what are some methods that you might implement in order to mitigate these barriers? What supports can we provide to help you be successful?
    2. Describe your current health promotion programming (please include virtual activities as well) and any relevant partnerships. Include information about what is working and what aspects need improvement. You might also describe how you have historically allocated or leveraged resources to connect with community opportunities outside the organization.
    3. Please outline your plan for who will be part of your Virtual Coach: HealthMattersTM Program Team, including specifically naming the staff who will become Certified Virtual Instructors, including the Team Coordinator. Please note any stellar achievements of the team members as relates to this work.

UIC IRB Protocol #2020-0754
Development Funding provided by CCTS Pilot Translational and Clinical Studies Program
2020 (2020COVID-01)

Continued funding for 12-months through a grant awarded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, The Healthy Brain Initiative Award #1 NU58DP006782-01-00 to the HealthMattersTM Program in the Department of Disability and Human Development, University of Illinois Chicago.

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