There has been a recent surge of talk about health coaches popping up in gyms, doctors’ offices, and in magazines. A health coach is someone who is educated in the field of exercise, nutrition, diet, and overall well-being. The Institute for Integrative Nutritiondefines a health coach as “a wellness authority and supportive mentor who motivates individuals to cultivate positive health choices. Health coaches educate and support clients to achieve their health goals through lifestyle and behavior adjustments.”
Health coaches are more than just personal trainers or personal chefs. They are people who live healthy holistic lifestyles and assist their clients in doing the same. Health coaches tend to focus on the individual needs of clients to help their clients live their healthiest lives. This is the concept of bio-individuality, the idea that “each of us has unique food and lifestyle needs. It is the understanding that no food philosophy or diet can yield the same results for everyone.”
Preventive healthis important to prevent obesity, cancer, diabetes, and many other NCDs. Health coaches play an important role in preventive health care. Community health workersare central in providing culturally appropriate health services to people all over the world—particularly in rural areas. Home health aides are important sources of home health care for people with disabilities or the elderly, allowing them to stay in their homes longer. Similarly, health coaches can help provide individualized support for people to begin to engage in and maintain healthier lifestyles.
A health coach works with clients based on the individual clients’ goals—whether they are to lose weight, gain muscle, eat cleaner, or just get healthier. Studiesshow the health benefits of utilizing a health coach in that they improve overall health and well-being and can cut health care costs in both the short and long-term. Health coaches provide education and personal and practical support. They can also serve as a bridge between patients and other health professionals.
Although health coaches often have a variety of certifications, including in diet and nutrition or personal training, health coaches are not necessarily certified personal trainers. It is also important to remember that a health coach is not a doctor, and has not received the medical training that a doctor has. Health coaches do not diagnose conditions, prescribe medications or recommend lower or higher doses of medications. A health coach should not be a replacement for a doctor, but can be used as an additional resource to live and maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Some doctors are starting to partner with health coaches to assist with patients that are obese or diabetic to outline a plan to lose weight and get healthy.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.