Topic: Health Coach
April 14, 2014 | Posted By Jane Jankowski, LMSW, MS

A coach is defined as a person who is tasked with teaching or training others, usually in conjunction with athletic endeavors. When this term is applied to health, we often presume the coach is a personal trainer of sorts, focusing on optimizing fitness and nutrition for those who can afford the fee for this level of personal attention. Over the last few years, however, there has been a growing movement to provide a different kind of health coaching within the medical arena for patients who have difficulty adhering to health related regimens for medication, office visits, and management of chronic medical problems. This endeavor has been found to work for many reasons, but remains in the wings of the contemporary healthcare industry.

The first time I read about the concept of community based health coaching was via Atul Gwande’s article “The Hot Spotters” published in 2011 in The New Yorker magazine included here in its entirety for interested readers. What resonated for me was the comment from one recipient who stated that the coach was effective because of the way the advice and encouragement and nudging was delivered, “Because she talks like my mother” implying that there is understanding, concern, and discipline delivered as the underlying message between coach and patient. I think most good athletic coaching is the same. While success is not measured in trophies, medals, or college scholarships when it comes to medical coaching, the potential for life changing outcomes are very real. And the opportunities for cost savings are very real as well.

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