What is a health coach?
Are you looking for guidance on how to change your lifestyle? Often people know what they want to do like exercise more, eat healthier or lose weight — but they get stuck in the process. If this sounds familiar, you might consider consulting with a health coach.
A health coach is an individual who’s trained and certified to guide and support people in achieving their health and wellbeing goals through lifestyle and behavior change.
“It’s great to have a neutral and supportive person to be accountable to.”
Health coaches help people discover why they want to change and what steps need to happen for success. Sometimes support and information for chronic conditions, a new diagnosis or “just in time” suggestions provided by the health coach can spark healthy changes. This help to set and reach health goals can happen over the phone, by email or in person (during COVID-19, health coaching is taking place virtually for safety).
Health coaches typically obtain an undergraduate degree in the health and wellness field or get certified as a personal trainer. From there, they pursue a coaching certification and complete a rigorous test to become board certified.
Priority Health, for example, has several health coaches on staff for members. All of them are board certified by the International Consortium for Health & Wellness Coaching (ICHWC). Having a board certification provides a minimum standard and measure of foundational competencies: the knowledge, training and skills essential to the practice of health and wellness coaching.
What does a health coach do?
Every day is unique for a health coach. They work with real people and real situations, which creates a lot of variety in a health coach’s day-to-day. Sometimes the customer guides the conversation with their health coach. Other times the health coach uses his or her own skills and training to match communications styles with the person they are coaching.
Typically, a health coach will consult over the phone, but when they work onsite, they meet one-on-one with their customers at their place of employment.
A health coach can help with:
- Smoking cessation
- Physical activity
- Stress reduction
- Sleep health
- Weight management
- Diabetes care
- Life satisfaction
- Behavior change processes
At Priority Health, the health coaching cycle typically lasts three months, following a 12-week model, but it can go beyond that depending on a member’s health plan and desire to continue.
When starting a coaching cycle, a health coach will reach out to an individual for an initial call to schedule a more comprehensive discussion about their health goals. The comprehensive discussion may last an hour. From there, the coach will schedule weekly or monthly calls to discuss ongoing progress.
What is the future of health coaching?
Coaching is just one aspect of wellness or overall wellbeing. Currently at Priority Health, for example, health coaches work in tandem with care managers and pharmacy or behavioral health programs if the member needs additional support. Each year, there are new ideas and lessons brought forward in health coaching, allowing it to turn a corner in holistic wellbeing.
Nearly 100% of members surveyed say they were satisfied or very satisfied with their health coaching experience. As one member Cindy* shared:
“It’s great to have a neutral and supportive person to be accountable to,” said Cindy. “My coach has been extremely positive and helpful in setting goals, reinforcing lifestyle changes and providing education. She’s great at letting me take steps in my own pace and time and reflecting back on what I’ve committed to. It has truly helped me in my wellness pursuits.”
Read these inspiring health coaching success stories from Priority Health members:
If health coaching is something you’re interested in, talk to your HR representative to find out if it is a part of your wellbeing plan or contact Priority Health’s customer service team.
*Name has been changed for member’s privacy.