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What is a Health Coach?

Health coach, wellness coach, health coaching, wellness coaching – what are they?  Seems no matter what health and wellness related publication you pick up there’s something a mention of theses terms?  We’re here to assist you in learning about health coaches and wellness coaches and to assist you in finding a coaching program that’s right for you and/or your organization.

Why Health Coaching

For the average American worker, life can be a dizzyingly-busy whirlwind of obligations, responsibilities and priorities. Amidst all of this craziness, many of us have our physicians telling us we need to make some changes – or else!

We know that all we really need do is get a little more active and eat a little better, but in this hectic day and age, these little changes can seem awfully intimidating and difficult to incorporate into our lives.

Fortunately for us, there is a growing group of professionals who are daily becoming better-equipped to help us stay on track and achieve the most optimal state of wellness of which we’re capable.

Health CoachA health coach, or wellness coach as they’re sometimes called, has but one interest in mind: keep you in a state of wellness, or get you there if need be. These educated professionals realize that there are many people out there who love the idea of meeting regularly with a dietician or personal trainer, but their schedules simply do not permit this to become reality.

Fortunately for us, health coaches are available through a number of means, from telephone to email to meeting in-person. Health coaches strive to be accommodating, convenient and flexible, all while maintaining effectiveness.

According to Anne Helmke at the National Wellness Institute, “Coaching provides a positive connection — a supportive relationship — between the coach and the person who wants to make a change. That connection empowers the person being coached to recognize and draw on his or her own innate ability and resource to make lasting changes for better health and well-being.”

How does the coach accomplish this? He or she helps the client to set both short and long term goals, sets action plans, monitors progress in goal attainment, and develops strategies to utilize the clients’ strengths most effectively. All of these together maximize the clients’ potential to achieve desired outcomes.

The first step in the health coaching process is to have the client fill out a health risk assessment if he or she has yet to do so. Based on these results, the coach develops a plan for modifying those health risk factors identified by the health risk assessment.

Common areas of interest for the health coach include stress management, blood lipid correction, weight reduction, ergonomic counseling and nutritional planning. An effective coach motivates the client to strive for the established goals and truly optimize current health status in hopes of a healthier future.

We also advocate the use of wellness incentives and rewards in health promotion programs for employees. Use of programs like this enhance participant satisfaction and overall results.

Components of a Health Coaching Program
  • Health CoachingComplimentary and Alternative Medicine
  • Disease Management
  • Diet and Nutrition
  • Fitness Education
  • Prenatal and Postnatal Wellness
  • Smoking/Tobacco Cessation and Prevention
  • Stress Management
  • Walking
  • Weight Management
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Family Relationships

Health Coaching / Wellness Coaching helps employees and their families lead healthier lives through a wide array of telephonic, onsite and web-based coaching programs. These programs, which cover topics ranging from prenatal health and wellness to smoking cessation to nutrition, are offered to members on an unlimited basis.

Members initiate the program by contacting (or being contacted by) a health coach / wellness coach. The health coach / wellness coach will be the member’s personal champion throughout their individual journey to health and wellness. All health coaches with which we work must have education and professional experience in one or more of the following disciplines: Exercise and Sport Science, Public Health, Health Education, Nutritionist, Dietician, Corporate Wellness, ALA-certified.

How Will I communicate with My Health Coach?
Throughout the coaching process, health coaches are encouraged to communicate with the member through phone calls, emails or “snail mail”. In addition, health coaches / wellness coaches typically send participating members a series of tip sheets, wellness calculators and books to support their positive lifestyle decision.

All health coaches that we work with participate in regular trainings and follow guidelines specifically developed for health management and lifestyle behavior change. All programs follow a process, which identifies the member’s stage of change, delivers key messages and broadly stated questions, and focuses on pivotal levers for change.

Are There Online Resources?
We also offer clients a wellness website, which provides participants with a complement to telephonic health coaching / wellness coaching. Through the website, the participant can:

  • “chat” with a Health Coach / Wellness Coach;
  • track their progress through any of the health coaching / wellness coaching programs;
  • find a local health club;
  • or link to hundreds of wellness resources throughout the country.

Because the health coaches / wellness coaches have administrative access to the site, participants can work with a coach online who has the ability to monitor their progress through any of the health coaching / wellness coaching programs.

How Successful is Health Coaching?
During the initial intake session, the Health Coach will determine the member’s position on Prochaska’s ‘Readiness to Change’ model; and build a personalized plan accordingly. The behavior change process unfolds over months and years, and is characterized by six distinct stages. By matching an intervention to the appropriate stage, Health Coaches can improve the member’s probability of success.

Success, moreover, is generally defined not just by changing the unhealthy behavior but by any movement toward change, such as a transition from one stage of readiness to another. Another important and innovative contribution of this model is its emphasis on maintaining change. The model recognizes that relapse is common.

What's the Return on Investment for Health Coaching?
  • Telephonic health coaching / wellness coaching nearly doubles a smoker’s odds of quitting; and maintaining cessation for one year. Source: American Cancer Society, 2004
  • A monster.com (2006) survey of human resource professionals found four key reasons that telephonic health coaching / wellness coaching is gaining popularity: convenience; anonymity; flexibility; and cost.
  • Participants in the phone-based (coaching) program lost almost as much weight as another group receiving services through the face-to-face clinical method. Telephonic participants lost 23 pounds over 12 weeks; and 28 pounds over 26 weeks. Clinic-based participants lost 28 pounds
    over 12 weeks; and 28 pounds over 26 weeks Source: Univ. of Kansas Center for Weight Management, 2005
  • Employees with high BMI have, on average, $2,366 higher medical claims per year than those with normal BMI. They also had twice as many absentee days, accounting for $863 in lost work time and productivity per year. – Burton, 2001

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