Thirty years ago, the term and profession of Health Coach was unheard of. Fast-forward to today, and health coaching has become a $6 billion industry, with the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) supplying professional Health Coaches to the healthcare field all over the world. What’s happened in these 30 years to allow for such rapid growth of this profession? Public health in the United States and around the globe has declined due to:
- Increased prevalence of preventable lifestyle diseases
- Increased sedentary behavior and lifestyles
- Increased cost of healthcare
Early on, IIN recognized the need for healthcare professionals who bridged the gap between patients and clinicians. It seems as though the health and wellness field is finally catching up – Jane Brody, longtime personal health columnist for the New York Times, said what we’ve been shouting from the rooftops all along: We could all use a Health Coach!
Why work with a Health Coach?
Brody outlined why someone would want or need to work with a Health Coach:
- You’re suffering from a chronic condition. (Nearly 150 million Americans currently suffer from at least one chronic condition.)
- You want to better understand how to manage your chronic condition through diet and lifestyle.
- You need support carrying out your doctor’s recommendations.
- You want to optimize your health and focus on prevention.
Whatever your reason, a Health Coach can guide you in making important changes that can ripple out into other areas of your life as well as the lives of other people!
Consider this: At your annual physical, your doctor notes that your weight and blood pressure have increased, and you need to focus on bringing them back down. You’ve also shared that you’re often fatigued and don’t have energy to spend with family and friends. Your doctor recommends modifying your diet, reducing stress, and incorporating more physical activity into your daily routine. In about 15 minutes, your visit is over and you leave with a list of to-dos but no blueprint for success.
Enter a Health Coach, whose primary goal is to empower clients to take a leading role in their health by providing knowledge, accountability, and motivation to inspire change. In the above scenario, a Health Coach would work with you to make changes to your diet that are achievable for the long haul.
They would also support you in exploring aspects of your life that could be impacting your health, such as identifying stressors and how to manage them better and figuring out how to overcome resistance to exercise. After working with a coach for several months, you might find yourself with more energy, less stress, and even healthier relationships with your loved ones – in addition to improved health biomarkers.
Health Coaches in primary care
Many Health Coaches decide to work in private practices, creating their own businesses after completing their Health Coach training. However, a growing number of Health Coaches are choosing to work with doctors and other clinicians in primary care facilities, hospital systems, and health insurance organizations.
As Brody notes, Health Coaches “trained in behavioral health, nutrition, and other areas that doctors aren’t traditionally taught in medical school are gradually being incorporated into primary care practices,” which makes Health Coaches a big value-add to any practice! Some practices are even incorporating health coaching services as part of a patient’s total cost of care, which may be higher for the patient in the short term, but lower in the long term, as the patient’s health improves and necessitates less costly care.
Brody states that a potential barrier to care is the lack of a code for doctors to submit Health Coach services for insurance claims. But this actually isn’t the case – there are currently Category III Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes available for clinicians (and Health Coaches working with clinicians) to submit health coaching services to insurance providers.
These are temporary codes meant to collect data on how often and in what circumstances Health Coaches are utilized, with the goal of making them permanent within the CPT code library for healthcare providers. Being able to submit Health Coach services to insurance will make it even more accessible for more people to receive this important care!
Paving the way for more Health Coaches in healthcare
After highlighting success stories of people who worked with Health Coaches to improve well-being, Brody directly addresses the current U.S. administration about the urgent need for medical care to catch up to modern times. Despite our awareness that chronic lifestyle diseases are responsible for disability and premature death, as well as the majority of the trillions of dollars spent on healthcare, we’re still not focusing on preventive health enough.
Brody emphasizes that “[America] would do well to find ways to make Health Coaches accessible to more people,” and we couldn’t agree more. That’s why IIN is wholeheartedly committed to advocating for the Health Coach profession from our work with allies in Congress to our efforts in supporting our global community with a world-renowned education.
IIN also has fierce advocates for Health Coaches in the medical field, including:
- PeaceHealth, a nonprofit health system serving urban and rural communities in the Pacific Northwest that aims to employ IIN Health Coaches across its organization
- Parsley Health, one of the primary care facilities mentioned in Brody’s article that provides Health Coaches as part of standard patient care
- Frank Lipman MD’s Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, a holistic medicine practice that incorporates health coaching services into patient care
- Mark Hyman, MD, founder and director of The UltraWellness Center, who believes Health Coaches are the ones able to address the epidemic of chronic illness outside the doctor’s office
We are thrilled to see this esteemed columnist write about Health Coaches and the impact they have on people’s health and lives. We know this is a step in the right direction for the Health Coach industry as a whole, and we’re excited to continue leading the way in training passionate coaches to improve health and happiness around the world.