Due to the lack of regulation in the coaching industry, the terms health and wellness coach along along with health coach or wellness coach can be used interchangeably. However, despite the lack of regulation, this niche can have a significant impact on the health of individuals and greatly alleviate pressure placed on the healthcare system. This is achieved by improving health and wellbeing of clinical or subhealth populations and by maintaining health in non-clinical populations.
Health coaches work like any other coach; they offer a client-focused approach that promotes long-lasting lifestyle change. It’s suggested that coaches are limited to only helping non-clinical populations, however, research is coming out on the benefits of a coaching relationship that is often integrated into primary care. Thus, being able to provide much needed help for clinical populations [1-9]
Health coaches provide a safe environment for patients to discover their own strengths and explore new, creative, and sustainable ways of achieving their health goals. Health coaches can easily be integrated into medical care via referrals from healthcare professionals or by operating out of a healthcare facility.
In contrast to the medical model where professionals tend to come and go as they each take care of different issues. Health coaches look at the whole patient. This sense of stability and consistency builds trust and rapport, further enabling more success to come out of the relationship.
Additionally, health coaches take a personalised approach to care, which oftentimes is lacking in medicine and primary care . Having the same individual by one’s side can provide a sense of relief and comfort especially in the face of complicated health issues where suffering is involved.
The additional benefit of integrating health coaches into primary care is that it restricts the possibility for health coaches to provide their own health advice or information.
Research reviews have found that health coaching, when compared to the traditional implementation of care, can significantly improve patient outcomes.
Health coaching greatly enhances patient adhesion to medical and health interventions . This works by providing the patient with motivation, a sense of accountability and structured ways of attaining goals.
The demand for competent health coaches is becoming increasingly apparent. There is a huge need to transform healthcare.
We know that there has been an increase in the prevalence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Astoundingly, it is estimated that roughly 70% of the overall burden in healthcare is due to chronic illness .
50% of Australians are afflicted with at least 1 chronic disease . Currently, NCDs are the leading cause of death  and account for 7 of the top 10 causes of death globally .
It is commonly understood that lifestyle changes can significantly reduce and, in some cases, even reverse NCDs . This is incredibly important as the burden of disease caused by ‘lifestyle diseases’ is predicted to only increase .
Health coaches can assist and take on certain components within this prevention strategy. Clearly, something needs to be done, there is no one big fix but rather, a lot of smaller pieces coming and working together to achieve an overarching goal.
Despite our lifespan extending, we often fall ill in our old age. However, there is hope. We can prevent the onset of illness in old age. We need to extend our health span- ensuring we live healthier for longer. This is achieved through positive and sustained lifestyle changes throughout our entire lifespan, providing another benefit for the integration of health coaching into healthcare .
The difficult part about all this is that the individual needs to be willing to put in the effort to change. In society today, we’ve been conditioned for almost everything to be convenient and if it’s not, we don’t bother and search for a convenient alternative. For example, most people will continue to eat unhealthily and not exercise because they can be prescribed blood pressure medication or antidepressants rather than exploring alternative preventative options.
I believe that by educating individuals on the benefits of lifestyle change and how it impacts health as well as disease, we can increase individual motivation and help to create change.
“From the bitterness of disease man learns the sweetness of health” - Catalan proverb. This idea of only being grateful for our health in times of illness rings true for almost everyone.
Being in a diseased or ill state, often takes up a lot of resources, money, and time. If we are projected to be living longer, having an increased lifespan, we ought to increase and extend our health spans and improve our quality of life for as long as humanly possible.
No one wants to be disabled and dependent on others, we need to educate people on the benefits of maintaining optimal health to reduce healthy years lost in later life due to poor lifestyle choices. We need to empower people to take charge of their own health. Emphasising the importance of wellness and self-care.
There will always be a need for healthcare; however, there should always be a continued effort to improve health outside of healthcare.
This would benefit individuals, communities, nations, and the entire globe.
We need to provide more thorough and rigorous health education to the public in the hopes that they will actively improve their health.
We saw how powerful information was in changing behaviour during the COVID-19 pandemic. If we were to educate people about their health and how to improve it, we can hope to not only influence behaviour in a positive manner but catalyse research in areas of optimal health and how it reduces the need for healthcare, reduces disease manifestation and progression etc.
As health and medical interventions are often applied outside of healthcare e.g. changing diet, improving sleep, implementing exercise routine etc., physicians and other professionals are extremely limited, having only certain levels of influence and capacities to help patients.
Health coaches can help with this currently unmet need .