Health Coaching

“The engine room of Lifestyle Medicine”

Why health coaching?

Chronic disease is the leading cause of death, illness and disability in Australia. In 2014/15, 50% of Australians had at least one prominent chronic disease. At the same time, just on a quarter of all Australians had two or more chronic diseases and 60% of people over the age of 65 had two or more chronic diseases1. In 2011, around three quarters of the non-fatal burden of disease arose from chronic conditions2.

Our current and historical approaches to healthcare are not stemming this tide. The key feature of most chronic disease is lifestyle, not a pathogen. Simply knowing what constitutes a healthy diet or adequate exercise, is not sufficient. The prevention, treatment and reversal of chronic disease therefore requires evidence based supported behavioural change and this has not been the mainstay of health and medical care.

To combat escalating chronic disease, we must have health and medical practitioners equipped with skills to engage patients in making sustained health behaviour change. The evidence-based practice of health coaching, when combined with the principles of Lifestyle Medicine, is one significant contribution to this challenge.

What is health coaching?

Health coaching is the evidence based application of questioning, conversational and goal setting skills to assist patients to make sustainable health behaviour change consistent with their own values and personal strengths. It seeks to empower patients to locate their own unique motivating forces to respond to the health challenges specific to them. Health coaching approaches can be taught and integrated into routine medical and health consultations and provide both patients and health care providers with skills to identify and secure lasting behavioural change and to respond effectively to uncertainty and ambivalence about change.

In short, health coaches are expert facilitators of mindset and behaviour change that generates sustainable healthy lifestyles to prevent and treat disease and foster well-being and thriving.

Over the course of a few consultations, a patient will first identify an overall health or lifestyle goal – for example, increasing vegetable intake or exercise activities. The health coach uses his or her skills to help the patient connect this vision with their own values and strengths. Reachable goals are set and barriers can be managed where necessary. Over the course of a few subsequent meetings, patients review progress, challenges and next steps.

Evidence and applications

There is already a broad evidence base for health coaching3,4. More research is available here, showing the successful application of health coaching in diabetes, obesity, smoking cessation, hypertension and dietary behaviour change. All primary care providers – whether they be GPs, allied health or community health practitioners are ideally placed to learn the skills of evidence-based health coaching and work with patients as early as possible to support lasting health behaviour change. There are a growing number of courses in health coaching available and ASLM supports the widespread development of this important field.  Importantly, we want to ensure that accessible and practical training is available to all heath professionals and have partnered with Wellcoaches to help achieve this.
Candid image of two colleagues

The Australasian Society of Lifestyle Medicine entered into a strategic partnership with Wellcoaches® Australia in June 2019 to improve accessibility to practical training in health coaching among health practitioners.

Courses and Events

Wellcoaches® Australia and Wellcoaches® New Zealand run professional training courses across Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific region. These courses provide the tools and skills to becoming game-changing professionals in healthcare, consumer well-being and corporate settings; equipping health coaches to be expert facilitators of sustainable change in mindset and behaviours.

Whether you’re confident that you want to progress to certification as a health coach or just want to see how health coaching can make a difference to your work  in healthcare, Wellcoaches has courses to fit your needs! To find out more and register for a course, visit Wellcoaches today. 

More information

Margaret Moore on believing in change

Margaret Moore on the stages of readiness.

Margaret Moore, aka Coach Meg, founded Wellcoaches Corporation in 2000, the first School of Coaching for health professionals and now a global standard-bearer for professional coaches in healthcare and wellness.

More videos from Wellcoaches and Margaret Moore.

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