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What is health coaching

Last Updated: 15 January 2019








What is health coaching

Most of us all have a few little, unhealthy behaviours. In small doses these can be mostly harmless, without long term effect on our health and wellbeing. But if our unhealthy behaviours become ingrained they can impact our short- and long-term health and wellbeing...

With three quarters of chronic disease being attributed to lifestyle factors (including smoking, poor nutrition and inactivity), it is obvious we need to look at different, innovative and effective programmes and techniques to help people improve their physical and mental health.

The purpose of health coaching is to empower you to take control of your own health and wellbeing and to make positive changes to your lifestyle behaviours.


What is a Health Coach?

Health coaches work with their clients, listening and guiding their client to explore their behaviours, and to bring about realisation of where change would not only be beneficial, but in many cases necessary. a health coach, among other duties, “help people clarify their health goals, and implement and sustain behaviours, lifestyles, and attitudes that are conducive to optimal health; guide people in their personal care and health-maintenance activities; and, assist people in reducing the negative impact made on their lives by chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.”


That sounds suspiciously like what primary care is supposed to do, but can’t within the current paradigm of the 15-minute office visit. Where health coaching plays its most vital role is in translating goals realised by the clients into actual lifestyle behavioural change.


Research published in 2011 shows that health coaching is successful in achieving this. 58% of respondents observed improved health status in health coaching participants, with 42% seeing reduced health risks identified in an online health assessment. These results are also mirrored in financial terms with over a third of participants reporting a decrease in overall healthcare costs.


Why should I work with a Health Coach?

A Health Coach is an expert in health and wellness and has expertise in nutrition, exercise, tobacco cessation, stress management or general health.

A Health Coach is NOT a physician and does NOT offer medical advice, but WILL work with you—to set and achieve your personal health and wellness goals.

Many people find that they are more likely to set reasonable goals and to stick to a plan when they are "accountable" to someone. Like a sports coach, a Health Coach looks at your current "performance," discusses your strengths and weaknesses, and suggests ways that you might benefit from changes in your habits or routines. The Health Coach also monitors your progress and supports you


What benefits can telephone health coaching provide?

Take for example a UK NHS Trust, with around 250,000 people. An average of 7.5% of these may require support in the form lifestyle behaviour change to offset the effects of Type II diabetes – that’s 18,750 people.


The current model that employs in person ‘health trainers’ (less qualified/training required than a health coach) can only visit up to 3 people per day, and if the Trust has 15 health trainers, that is only 45 people receiving basic support per day. Over a year with 220 working days, that’s only 9,900 people receiving one session of support/year. In order to successfully change the behaviour of an individual, regular ongoing support and guidance is essential; one session every 2 years will not achieve satisfactory results. Additionally the cost of the staff for one year of health coaching sessions for the UK NHS would be £375,000. This doesn’t include travel and all other associated costs.


The telephone health coaching model provides much greater value of money. For the same £375,000, the NHS Trust could provide support and advanced health coaching for 39,600 people per year. Or preferably, it could provide 12 weeks’ worth of support – enough to make real lifestyle behavioural changes – to 6,600 people.


Telephone Health Coaching helps you focus on setting goals around what you can actively do to improve your health and wellbeing. To help you make lasting and sustainable lifestyle changes, you’ll receive a personal health coach who will work with you over the phone.


Your health coach will call you at a time that suits you. They will talk to you about your lifestyle, assess your situation and concerns, and work with you to develop specific goals and plans for physical activity and healthy eating. Each plan is tailored to your ideas and lifestyle and will be easy to start and maintain. You will work towards improving your health, quality of life and confidence to make changes to your lifestyle to minimise your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.


Providing online health coaching is an even more cost effective option. A personalised online health and wellbeing programme can be delivered to a large population for an even lower cost/head. As a result of this, online health coaching is a highly scalable and attractive solution for large groups, such as a UK NHS Trust, major insurance group or large corporate companies.



Written by Ruth Tongue
(MSc Nutrition)


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Weight loss
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