January 12�18 has received US Congressional recognition as National Health Coach Week finally!
In a letter shared with Integrative Nutrition, US representative Tim Ryan congratulated health coaches on the importance of their work:
"The United States faces a health crisis due in large part to the prevalence of costly chronic conditions, which are largely brought on by poor lifestyle choices... It is vital that Health and Wellness Coaches continue to expand their good work, the nation needs it...I want to congratulate the progress made by Health and Wellness Coaches and wish them the best during National Health and Wellness Coach Week."
Obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other preventable illnesses are at the heart of the current health crisis, and health coaches are poised to make a real difference. The current healthcare paradigm depends on invasive surgeries and medications to manage symptoms rather than identifying and preventing the root cause of illness. Food, exercise, sleep, stress management–these day-to-day choices are vitally important, but they are all too often overlooked by healthcare providers.
Over the past 23 years, Integrative Nutrition has paved the way for a new approach.
An increasing number of studies are showing that health coaching improves outcomes and is highly effective in improving people's health. One such study is highlighted in the Canadian Journal of Diabetes–Health Coaching in Diabetes: Empowering Patients to Self-Manage. The Health Council of Canada promotes self-management support which they define as the "systematic provision of education and supportive interventions, by healthcare staff (and others) to increase the patients' skills and con?dence in managing their health problems, including regular assessment of progress and problems, goal setting and problem-solving support."
Therefore, health coaches are considered as professionals, trained to engage in interactions that are focused on the patient's concerns and in which the patient is listened to and helped to work through their issues. In diabetes, the role of the health coach is to collaborate with the patient to inform and support him/her in making the best possible diabetes self-management decisions and to facilitate patient adherence and to follow up on the patients' choices.
The "core competencies" exhibited by healthcare professionals to coach self-management and health behaviour change are as follows:
1. Use re?ective listening;
2. Assess and match intervention to person's "readiness" to change;
3. Use decisional balance to increase (if necessary) a person's readiness to change;
4. Assist the person to develop a SMART (speci?c, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-oriented) goal and action plan; and
5. Assist the person to identify barriers, use problem solving and develop strategies for success.
The increasing burden of chronic disease on the health system can no longer be ignored. An essential component to managing chronic disease is patient self-management, including adherence to treatment recommendations and healthy lifestyle behaviours. To engage and support patients to effectively self-manage, healthcare professionals need to provide personal coaching as well as education. And health systems need to ensure co-ordination along the continuum of care integrating community-based, primary and specialist care.
More institutions are now recognising the importance of health coaching, and it is so exciting to now see the Integrative Nutrition community valued by an influential member of Congress.
With this news, health coaches like myself, are one step closer to our mission: to improve health and happiness and through that process, create a ripple effect that transforms the world.
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