The benefits of health coaching
Written by Carolien Koreneff, CDE-RN
Health coaching can play a key role in chronic disease management and healthcare in general, as it empowers individuals to self-manage or prevent chronic conditions by making behavioural changes and adopting healthier lifestyles.
Health coaches assist individuals to reflect on their priorities, define desired outcomes, and identify potential obstacles. Participants in health coaching programs receive the necessary education to achieve their goals and support is typically provided by qualified healthcare professionals.
Health coaching incorporates the principles and techniques of health behaviour change methodologies. It encourages participants to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, Timely) goals, actively acquire knowledge, and take charge of any chronic conditions they may have. Health coaches can help participants find motivation for change, articulate health goals, enhance self-efficacy and knowledge, create action plans, and maintain motivation.
Health coaching is now delivered through various channels, making it more accessible to the diverse needs of clients. Phone, email, SMS, online platforms, and mobile apps have provided options for people with limited time and access. In particular, these channels have improved access for rural and remote clients. However, face-to-face coaching, whether one-on-one or in a group setting, still plays a vital role, particularly for clients with unique needs such as learning difficulties, cultural and linguistic diversity, or disabilities. Being physically present allows for stronger personal connections and improved communication. Coaches can provide real-time feedback, encouragement, and direct support, thereby enhancing the coaching experience. Coach-client communication is more effective as they can interpret tone of voice, make eye contact, discern facial expressions, and observe other nonverbal cues.
As health professional you can play the important role of assisting clients select a program that suites their health and wellness goals. Your referral is particularly beneficial as clients who are referred by health professionals are more likely to complete the program than those who refer themselves. Some of the available health coaching services include:
Get Healthy Service
The Get Healthy Service is a free telephone and online coaching program delivered by Diabetes Australia on behalf of NSW Health.
The program helps people reach their health goals, at a time and place that suits them. The Get Healthy Service uses evidence-based behaviour change and goal-setting techniques to support participants to achieve health outcomes.
The program includes 6-10 confidential coaching calls on a range of health topics including eating healthy, getting active, reducing alcohol intake, reaching and staying at a healthy weight and managing health whilst living with type 2 diabetes or cancer. Get Healthy is available in languages other than English – free interpreter services are available. People who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander can yarn with an Aboriginal Health Coach and receive information specific to Aboriginal communities.
Participants who complete the program (data from financial year 2021-2022#):
- lose an average of 1.79 kg and 1.64 cm off their waist circumference and reduce their BMI by 0.64kg/m2
- get more physically active
- eat more fruit and vegetables each day
There is a separate Get Healthy in Pregnancy program, helping women to gain a healthy amount of weight and give their baby the best start in life, by making healthier choices during their current pregnancy.
The time it takes a participant to complete the program can vary. However, after completion they are able to re-enrol to continue working on other areas that they identify as being important for them.
Your clients can register for the Get Healthy Service, by calling 1300 806 258, Monday to Friday between 8am and 8pm, or they can register online. Alternatively, you can complete this web-based form. Your clients will be contacted by the Get Healthy Service within 5 working days.
#Continual evaluation of the Service is part of rigorous and ongoing quality improvement processes and enhancements have been made based on clinician and participant experience.
My health for life is funded by the Queensland Government and delivered by an alliance of health organisations, whose shared goal is to help Queenslanders achieve and enjoy the benefits of a healthy lifestyle. The Health Alliance is made up of the following organisations: Diabetes Australia (Qld), the Heart Foundation, the Stroke Foundation, the Queensland Primary Health Networks, the Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland, the Queensland Aboriginal and Islander Health Council and the seven Queensland Primary Health Networks.
My health for life is a free, six-month program designed to help Queenslanders stay well and lessen the risk of developing conditions such as type 2 diabetes, stroke, heart disease, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Choosing either one-on-one telephone coaching or small group sessions, participants work with a health coach to achieve their health goal, by developing an action plan and by exploring topics such as nutrition, physical activity, understanding their personal risk of developing health conditions and how to make healthier choices a part of everyday life.
My health for life also offers culturally tailored group programs for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples, Pacific Islanders, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin and Vietnamese speaking communities. All My health for life CALD programs are delivered by qualified bilingual, multicultural health workers and are tailored to meet the needs of the participants.
Details for health professionals about the My health for life program including how to refer a client can be found here.
While clients with type1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes, current gestational diabetes, heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease or not eligible for the My health for life program the website has the Living Well resource library to provide inspiration for their personal health journey.
The Coach Program®
The COACH Program® is a standardised, structured coaching program delivered by highly trained health professionals to people already diagnosed with a chronic condition or who are at high risk of developing chronic condition.
Developed in Australia in 1995, The COACH Program® has been rated the most evidence-based cardiovascular disease prevention program in the world on clinical and cost-effectiveness, by the British Heart Foundation and Public Health England’s “International Cardiovascular Disease Prevention case studies report – October 2018”.
The COACH Program® is delivered by telephone and mail-outs over a period of 6 months.
The Team at The COACH Program® also provide training, software and support for qualified health professionals employed in the public health system to coach people with chronic conditions (or at high risk of developing chronic conditions) to achieve and maintain target levels for their modifiable risk factors and to take their medication as recommended.
The COACH Program® provided by Diabetes Tasmania, is a free telephone coaching service for people at risk of or diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. It provides people with the opportunity to work with a health professional coach to understand, manage and improve their health in particular around the risk factors associated with diabetes and its complications. Anyone in Tasmania over the age of 18 who has type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes or is at risk of developing diabetes can sign up to the program.
For more information about The COACH Program® at Diabetes Tasmania phone: 1300 136 588 or participants can complete this form.
These are just a few examples of the types of health coaching programs available in Australia. Other health coaching programs include the Better Health Coaching Service in South Australia and the Life!program in Victoria.
Referring clients to a health coaching program is ultimately a mutually beneficial choice. Clients receive personalised support, education, and motivation to implement and maintain healthy behaviour changes. This leads to improved client outcomes, greater engagement, and adherence, enhancing job satisfaction for health professionals. In essence, the benefit of health coaching is the overall better quality of life.