Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, and obesity, continue to be major health challenges worldwide. More than 25% of Americans have multiple chronic conditions, accounting for more than 65% of U.S. health care spending. Managing these conditions requires a comprehensive and multidisciplinary approach, with healthcare professionals working collaboratively to provide the best possible care. One crucial member of the care team that is gaining recognition for their unique contribution is the health and wellbeing coach [1, 2]. In this blog, we will explore the pivotal role these coaches play in supporting individuals with chronic diseases and enhancing the overall effectiveness of care teams.
Understanding the Role of Health and Wellbeing Coaches
Health and wellbeing coaches are professionals who specialize in helping individuals make sustainable and healthy lifestyle behavior changes, and coaches can now become board certified . Unlike other members of the healthcare team, coaches focus on the non-clinical aspects of health, such as nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and behavior change. Their role is to empower individuals to take control of their health by setting realistic goals, engaging in self-discovery or active learning processes, and self-monitoring behaviors to increase accountability. A coaching mindset builds understanding, accountability, and passion for enacting positive change.
Key Contributions to Chronic Disease Management
Personalized Goal Setting: Health and wellbeing coaches work with individuals to establish realistic and achievable health goals. These goals are personalized, taking into account the specific needs, preferences, and limitations of the individual. By setting small, attainable action steps, coaches help individuals make gradual but sustainable changes.
Behavioral Change Support: Changing long-standing habits is a significant challenge for individuals managing chronic diseases. Coaches specialize in behavioral change techniques, helping patients identify and overcome obstacles to adopting healthier lifestyles. They provide the necessary guidance and support to navigate the complexities of behavior change.
Empowering Self-Management: Chronic disease management often involves daily self-care activities. Health and wellbeing coaches empower individuals to become active participants in their own health by teaching self-management skills. This includes understanding symptoms, monitoring vital signs, and making informed decisions about lifestyle choices.
Holistic Approach: Coaches take a holistic view of health, addressing various aspects of an individual's life that may impact their wellbeing. This holistic approach considers not only physical health but also mental, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. By recognizing the interconnectedness of these factors, coaches help individuals achieve a balanced and sustainable lifestyle.
Enhancing Communication within the Care Team: Health and wellbeing coaches may act as liaisons between patients and the broader healthcare team. With a patient’s permission, they may facilitate communication, ensuring that all members of the care team are well-informed about the patient's progress, challenges, and achievements. This collaboration contributes to a more integrated and patient-centered approach to care.
As the prevalence of chronic diseases continues to rise, the importance of a collaborative and comprehensive care team becomes increasingly evident. Health and wellbeing coaches bring a unique skill set to this team, focusing on empowering individuals to make lasting lifestyle changes. By addressing the non-clinical aspects of health and fostering a patient-centered approach, these coaches play a vital role in improving outcomes and enhancing the overall quality of care for those managing chronic diseases. As we move forward, recognizing and integrating the contributions of health and wellbeing coaches into healthcare systems will be essential for creating a holistic and effective approach to chronic disease management.
Our App: My Lotus Lifestyle
We have incorporated core concepts from the coaching process into a dedicated iPhone app named My Lotus Lifestyle, and we invite you to join our pre-release team to provide feedback before release on the Apple App Store in early 2024. Plan your unique journey to healthy and joyful living by defining your personal vision for wellbeing, goals and action steps, and create a wellbeing journal to track your progress.
Perlman AI, Abu Dabrh AM. Health and Wellness Coaching in Serving the Needs of Today's Patients: A Primer for Healthcare Professionals. Glob Adv Health Med. 2020 Sep 21;9:2164956120959274. Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7509728/
Gierisch JM, Hughes JM, Edelman D, et al. The Effectiveness of Health Coaching [Internet]. Washington (DC): Department of Veterans Affairs (US); 2017 Apr. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK487697/#
National Board for Health & Wellness Coaching. (2023). "NBHWC Health & wellness coach scope of practice." Retrieved from https://nbhwc.org/scope-of-practice/
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2023). “Transforming Health Care to Create Whole Health: Strategies to Assess, Scale, and Spread the Whole Person Approach to Health.” Retrieved from https://www.nationalacademies.org/our-work/transforming-health-care-to-create-whole-health-strategies-to-assess-scale-and-spread-the-whole-person-approach-to-health