It’s no secret that physical inactivity continues to be a concern in the U.S. and globally. Obesity is one of the major conditions affecting physically inactive individuals. Currently, almost 36 percent of adults and 17 percent of children are affected by obesity, and obesity-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are among the leading causes of preventable death in the U.S.
Given the rising costs of healthcare, the allied health and medical communities are struggling to find ways to shift to a more preventive approach when working with clients and patients impacted by overweight and obesity (and anyone else who is trying to change their lifestyle to make more healthful choices). Given the traditional prescriptive model of the healthcare system, the ability to shift to a more preventive focus takes time and is a huge paradigm shift for many people.
Integrating health coaches into our healthcare system is one effective way that we can work toward a more preventive approach. A health coach works alongside an individual to help them make successful behavioral changes, which is different from the prescriptive model. Health coaching is often done in small group environments, face-to-face, online or via telephone. Given the versatility and scope of the health coach, their ability to work within the healthcare system is now being seen as an important role. As part of a collaborative approach to healthcare, independent health coaches work as part of the healthcare team, or those already working within the healthcare system (e.g., registered nurses, physicians, medical assistants, etc.) are becoming health coaches.
The National Consortium for Credentialing of Health and Wellness Coaches, who has approved ACE’s Health Coach Certification, describes health coaches as, “Professionals from diverse backgrounds and education who work with individuals and groups in a client-centered process to facilitate and empower the client to achieve self-determined goals related to health and wellness. Successful coaching takes place when coaches apply clearly defined knowledge and skills so that clients mobilize internal strengths and external resources for sustainable change.”
Given the breadth and scope of health coaching it’s easy to see how this role is growing within hospitals, medical practices, wellness facilities, medical centers, etc. Making a difference in someone’s life is at the very foundation of what any medical or healthcare provider does.
Health coaches can use their skills to help improve lifestyle behaviors and help manage patients’ chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity. Lifestyle changes such as improved nutrition, increased physical activity, stress reduction and smoking cessation are some common areas a health coach might work in. The flexibility of coaching allows for health coaches to use different strategies and techniques for each of their patients and clients based on the understanding that everyone is different and that human behavior is complex. Health coaching is providing people with the skills to truly change the way people live.