Palmer et al defined health coaching as: The practice of health education and health promotion within a coaching context, to enhance the wellbeing of individuals and to facilitate the achievement of their health-related goals (1).
The American Academy of Family Physicians put it more simply: A health coach is a person that helps patients gain the knowledge, skills, tools and confidence to take part in their own care and reach their self-identified health goals (2).
“Give a man fish, he has food for a day. Teach a man to fish and he has food for a lifetime”.
From Wolever et al: The actual coaching process entails goal-setting determined by the patient, encourages self-discovery in addition to content education, and incorporates mechanisms for developing accountability in health behaviours. Coaching occurs in the context of a consistent, ongoing relationship with a human coach who is trained in specific behaviour change, communication, and motivational skills (3).
Roles of a Health Coach as defined by the American Academy of Family Physicians (2):
- Providing information
- Teaching disease-specific skills
- Promoting behaviour change
- Imparting problem-solving skills
- Assisting with the emotional impact of chronic illness
- Encouraging follow up
- Encouraging participation
Bridge between clinician and patient
- Serving as the patient’s liaison
- Ensuring that patient understands and agrees with care plan
- Providing cultural and language-concordance
Navigation of the health care system
- Connecting the patient with resources
- Facilitating support
- Empowering the patient
- Ensuring the patient’s voice is heard
- Showing interest
- Inquiring about emotional issues
- Showing compassion
- Teaching coping skills
Palmer S, Tubbs I, Whybrow A. Health coaching to facilitate the promotion of healthy behaviour and achievement of health-related goals. Int J Health Promotion Educ. 2003;41(3):91–3.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Health Coaching for Patients With Chronic Illness [Internet]. [cited 25th October 2018]. Available from: https://www.aafp.org/fpm/2010/0900/p24.html
Wolever RQ, Simmons LA, Sforzo GA, et al. A Systematic Review of the Literature on Health and Wellness Coaching: Defining a Key Behavioral intervention in Healthcare. Glob Adv Health Med. 2013;2(4):38-57.