What Is a Health Coach and How Can They Benefit Your Business?
June 12, 2019 / Corporate Wellness
Health coaching is catching on as an integrative part of workplace wellbeing programs, and for good reason. Health coaches help bridge the gap between patients and their providers, increase access to preventive care, and help individuals achieve their health and wellness goals. And they’re available at the touch of a button during times that actually work for busy professionals. Their ability to provide personalized, high-touch guidance that goes beyond the surface-level recommendations and drive positive health outcomes is what makes them an essential complement to any workplace wellbeing program.
But the quality and approach to health coaching can vary greatly across the industry. Here at Virgin Pulse, we have research-backed methods and high standards that ensure our members are receiving the best care possible. But how does it all work, and what does a health coach really do? Well, first let’s start with the basics.
What Is a Health Coach?
To us, coaching is a process that challenges individuals to develop their inner wisdom, identify their values, and transform their wellbeing goals into action
by facilitating healthy, sustainable behavior change. Coaching should draw on principles from positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, motivational interviewing, and goal setting.
Health coaches promote and facilitate the growth, healing, and wellbeing of the whole person by using coaching principles and healing modalities that integrate body-mind-emotion-spirit-environment.
Traditionally, there are two different approaches to health coaching — lifestyle management and condition management.
Lifestyle Management and Condition Management
Lifestyle management’s focus is on the lifestyle aspects of a person’s day-to-day: how they eat, sleep, move, and so on. It offers overall lifestyle improvement techniques and can align with preventive care compliance. An increase in participants’ health literacy is encouraged and fostered so that they’re able to self-direct their care and focus on the areas of their life they care about the most.
Condition management’s focus is to improve clinical outcomes and reduce costs associated with chronic conditions. This is delivered in a clinically sound, evidence-based way, using clinical guidelines, typically by nurses or coaches with nursing backgrounds. Industry-recognized certifications and health coaches with real-world experience are not just a nice-to-have for us, they’re critical to the services we provide.
Shifting the Conversation From Management to Improvement
People can be resistant to health coaching at first because they don’t want to be told what to do, chastised for missteps, or managed. To help change the conversation we like to refer to our services as lifestyle improvement and condition improvement, rather than management — empowering our members to take full control of their own wellbeing by focusing on progress and positive health outcomes.
But “management” or “improvement” aside, consider: the goal is not only to get workforces around the globe healthy but to shift the proverbial needle and prevent any issues before we must address conditions or lifestyle improvements.
While managing conditions is an important part of what we do, if we only focused on the very sick/very expensive (just as if we only focused on the sedentary with poor diets), we wouldn’t be making a big enough impact. Moving the entire population is the only real way to both end up with a truly holistically well workforce and control costs.
And the truth is, we’re all progressing toward a chronic disease if we’re not taking steps toward prevention. The goal is to slow the progression at the individual level so the entire population shifts.
A Person-First, Holistic Approach to Health Coaching
So, what does a health coach at Virgin Pulse do? They provide both lifestyle and condition improvement coaching. They address the full spectrum of health. They help the healthy stay healthy, slow or mitigate the progression of disease, and control costs of the sickest members.
They also take a whole person approach to coaching — based on the wisdom that all facets of life are interrelated and a positive change in one area can lead to a positive change in another. We view this holistic, clinically sound, evidence-based coaching as the best of behavior science and best of coaching science. And most importantly, it’s always directed by the member. Choice is key, and our coaches will focus on whatever the member chooses to focus on while providing them with the tools they need to improve.
By coaching to the lifestyle area(s) around a condition, or improving a condition so lifestyle improves, our coaches ensure a broader improvement of health and wellbeing. Offering both will get us closer to an overall preventive state, shifting the needle toward better health.