The quiet revolution of health and wellness coaches

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Washington, DC, January 11, 2016 | comments

Content originally published by The Hill on January 11th, 2016

Millions will emerge from this holiday season with new lifestyle and health goals for the New Year.  According to the University of Scranton’s Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45 percent of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. Among the top of the list are commitments to losing weight, reducing stress, enjoying life to its fullest, getting fit and healthy, and quitting smoking. Unfortunately, only 8 percent of those Americans are successful in achieving their resolutions and making real, lasting change. For some, failure to achieve their New Year’s resolutions is a fact of life, but it’s time to change that attitude.

We are in a health crisis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that chronic diseases from poor lifestyle choices are at the heart of our nation’s health care crisis and comprise approximately 75 percent of our health care dollars. These high health care costs are straining individuals, governments, and companies around the world. There is a dire need for us to implement lasting, healthy behaviors.

So why, despite access to abundant health information, do our best efforts to live better and implement the recommendations of health experts frequently fail?  The onslaught of daily stress, lack of time, and access to ready-made (and inexpensive) junk food that’s all too often within reach makes it easy to select less-healthy choices.

Our nation’s health and wellness is not suffering because we don’t know what to do; it’s that we need allies and advocates in the form of health coaches to assist and hold us accountable along the way. The work of health coaches has been quietly improving the health and wellness, it time to recognize their efforts and empower their growth, our nation’s health depends on it.   

Health coaches work with individuals and support them to make lasting positive changes to diet and lifestyle. A health coach empowers their clients to shift from a passive recipient of expensive health care to a responsible, self-directed advocate for living well.  Health coaches turn the standard recommendation of “eat better” and “get more exercise” into a real plan of action along with the support needed to create lasting change. If our kids have soccer coaches; our teenagers have debate team coaches; and we may even have a tennis coach, then it certainly makes sense for those on the path to better wellness to have access to a health coach.

Providing better access to health and wellness coaches for all Americans is why this week we are kicking-off a nationwide celebration of “Health and Wellness Coach Week” from January 11th through January 17th, 2016.  During this week, we’ll be focusing on ways Americans can improve their health and wellness through positive behavior modifications that combat costly chronic conditions, which are largely brought on by poor lifestyle choices. With the New Year upon us and as millions of Americans renew their commitments to hit the gym, change eating habits and adopt healthier lifestyles, now is the perfect time to recognize the essential work of health coaches. 

The recent, bipartisan introduction of the Health and Wellness Coach Resolution (H. Res. 552) in the House of Representatives is a signal that our policymakers support the important work of health coaches.  The resolution introduced last month by Reps. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), Tim Ryan (D-Ohio), Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) and Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.), illustrates that members of Congress from both parties clearly understand and agree with the new research and a growing movement embracing a holistic approach to wellness with food and lifestyle as the new prescription of choice and health coaches as the guides.

Health coaches are the future of preventive health care. The health coach movement now has approximately 35,000 self-identified practitioners nationally, and the Department of Labor projects a 21 percent increase (faster than all other occupations) for health and wellness professionals focused on preventive health. It is the mission of health coaches to play a crucial role in improving health and happiness, and through that process, create a ripple effect that transforms the world. It is imperative that our nation’s lawmakers continue to seek out opportunities to support the important benefits health coaches are providing citizens around the country and helping daily to ensure the health of the American public.

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