Health Coaches Pave the Way for a Brighter Future for Health Care
By Joshua Rosenthal
As policy makers continue to debate the future of healthcare in America, there is an often overlooked, yet important, part of our healthcare system. Think about the healthiest habits you have. Do you enjoy getting outside to walk on your lunch break, drink mostly water during the day, or cook healthy meals every night?
How did you develop these healthy habits?
Chances are, you developed these healthy tendencies over time, with guidance and support from friends, family, colleagues, coaches, and anyone else who encouraged you and held you accountable.
Getting and staying healthy isn’t rocket science. Most of us know we need to exercise more, eat whole foods, and manage our stress better. The challenge is in making those healthy habits stick. While we like to think we can do the right thing because the experts say we should, science tells a different story.
Ongoing research at the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California and the Mayo Clinic have found that people are much more likely to adopt and maintain healthy habits when they work with a peer or coach as opposed to a doctor or another expert. (1) (2)
Health Coaches are perfectly poised to be that peer or coach for people looking for a partner to help them adopt and maintain healthier habits. Why? Health Coaches are trained in changing behaviors, holding people accountable and frequently have a lot in common with their clients. These similarities (like culture, language, experiences, and values) help to develop trust and a unique mentor/student bond that can bring about total life transformation and lasting change.
Health Coaches are the future of preventative health care; in fact, as one of the fastest-growing professions, there are now approximately 35,000 self-identified practitioners nationally and the Department of Labor projects a 21 percent increase for health and wellness professionals focused on preventative health – faster than all other occupations.
The bottom-line: In an age of rising health care costs and uncertainty, Health Coaches have the ability to reduce over all health care costs while employing thousands of Americans with well-paying jobs.
Medical professionals are crucial for helping those in need, but they don’t always have the time or resources to help people find and build healthy habits. There is a huge demand for a new kind of health advocate who can help fill a void in our current healthcare system.
According to David Thom, M.D., Ph.D. Research Director for the UCSF Department of Family & Community Medicine, “When patients are managed by their doctor, we often do so in four or five 15-minute visits a year, and in between those visits we have little to no contact with the patient. To think that is optimal is naïve. It’s amazing that we’ve gotten along so long without using Health Coaches, and we haven’t even realized all the benefits yet.” (3)
Within the current healthcare model, attempts to reduce lifestyle-related chronic disease and costs have proven to be financially unsustainable due to a system that rewards hospitalizations and invasive procedures. Thankfully, more employers, hospitals, and insurance companies understand that an investment in Health Coaches have real and lasting impacts on our collective wellness.
The Wall Street Journal recently reported that there is “a broader shift within the healthcare industry toward keeping people well instead of simply treating them when they’re sick.” And that, “although wellness coaching is a relatively new field, some recent research suggests that it does work.” (4)
Our nation’s health and wellness is not suffering because we don’t know what to do; it’s that we need allies and advocates in the form of Health Coaches to assist and hold us accountable along the way. The work of Health Coaches has been quietly improving the health and wellness of many for over 25 years. It is time to recognize their efforts and empower their growth; our nation’s health depends on it.
We also need the support of Congress to ensure that our community can continue to offer preventive health care options for millions of Americans. Allowing consumers the flexibility in using their Health Savings Accounts (HSA) for Health Coaches will incentivize wellness. The recent, bipartisan introduction of the Health and Wellness Coach Resolutions in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate is a signal that our policymakers support the important work of Health Coaches.(5) More importantly, it also illustrates that our policymakers from both parties clearly understand and agree with the new research and a growing movement embracing a holistic approach to wellness with food and lifestyle as the new prescription of choice and Health Coaches as the guides.
It is the mission of Health Coaches to play a crucial role in improving health and happiness, and through that process, create a ripple effect that transforms the world. It is imperative that our nation’s lawmakers continue to seek out opportunities to support the important benefits Health Coaches are providing citizens around the country and helping daily to ensure the health of the American public.
Rosenthal, MScEd. is the visionary founder and director of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), which has trained over 100,000 students in 100 countries for over 25 years.
About The Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN)
The Institute for Integrative Nutrition was founded in 1992 by Joshua Rosenthal. What started as a small classroom of passionate students in a live setting is now the world’s largest nutrition school and most well renowned Health Coach Training Program. Through an innovative, one-year online course built specifically for the adult learner, Integrative Nutrition’s holistic program teaches Health Coaching and business skills, personal development philosophy, and over 100 dietary theories with lectures by the world’s leading physicians, researchers, doctors, and nutrition experts. Integrative Nutrition is more than a school; they are a movement whose program is changing the landscape of health and wellness around the world, training over 60,000 students and graduates in 124 countries.