Reading Time: 5 minutes
Preventative care refers to services that help protect individuals from developing a chronic disease. This type of care can also reduce the risk of certain mental health conditions. When we think of preventative services, we often think of our annual physicals or yearly wellness visits with a primary care physician. But a health coach also plays a valuable role in disease prevention.
If you’re not familiar with the health coach role, this professional has many important duties. One is to educate clients. They talk about the importance of nutrient-dense foods and regular physical activity for optimal health and wellness. Coaches also provide effective stress management or quitting smoking approaches. If you need motivation and accountability, a health coach offers this too.
A health coach can work with clients with no major disease or mental health issues. It’s also common for individuals with these types of conditions to seek health coaching services. This includes those who’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, arthritis, or mental health conditions like depression or anxiety. In cases such as these, a health coach can work with them to develop behaviors that aid in disease control.
A health coach often works independently. They may provide in-person lifestyle coaching sessions. Or they could offer online health coaching. Taking their coaching business online allows them to reach a wider pool of clients.
Some health coaches work for companies. In this role, their goal is to improve workplace health and wellness. This can help reduce workers’ use of sick days. Improved employee health also helps reduce medical expenses. Healthy staff require fewer doctor’s visits and treatment costs.
Other professionals use health coaching as an add-on to other fitness services. For example, some trainers offer a client package that includes both personal training and health coaching. A nutritionist may also add health coaching to their package options.
It’s much better to prevent disease (when you can) than to try to treat it. Not to mention that some preventable health conditions have no cure. Once you have it, there’s no getting rid of it. You may be able to control it but you’ll have the disease for the rest of your life.
In many cases, preventable diseases are caused by lifestyle choices. Heart disease is one example of an incurable chronic condition that can be caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. Type II diabetes is another. A health coach can help clients develop behaviors that reduce the risk of these conditions.
This can be especially valuable to individuals with a family history of disease. A client may have many family members with type II diabetes, for instance. This may send them in pursuit of a diabetes prevention program. As a health coach, you could develop a program for this type of client. Help them learn what they can do to reduce their risk of developing diabetes.
Creating healthy behavior changes can also prevent other conditions from developing. As an example, the Anxiety & Depression Association of America reports that anxiety and sleep disorders often co-exist. (1) Maybe you have a client who deals with anxiety by binging on food. You can help them develop healthier ways to cope with their anxiousness—such as with exercise or deep breathing—that could also positively impact their sleep.
Preventing chronic diseases enables people to avoid symptoms that can lower their quality of life. It can also reduce their healthcare expenses. A person with diabetes incurs an average of $9,601 annually in medical expenses as a result of this disease according to the American Diabetes Association. (2) Hiring a health coach can go a long way in preventing diseases such as this, also preventing its related costs.
Plus, when someone takes the initiative to improve their health, they tend to also see improvements in other areas of their life. They start to feel better physically, so their work or school performance improves. Or they feel better mentally, which improves their attitude, outlook, and even their relationships. So, preventing disease can also help people avoid or reduce issues in other areas as well.
If a health coach can help prevent disease, does this mean that you no longer need a primary care provider? Not at all. You benefit from having both. Here’s why.
A healthcare provider who specializes in family medicine can diagnose and treat diseases. They can run tests to figure out why you don’t feel your best. They can also use certain tests to discover diseases that are in their infant stages, stopping them before they can progress. If you have a disease, they can prescribe treatment (or refer you to someone who can).
A health coach can aid in disease prevention by helping you develop healthier behaviors. They work with you to control the disease factors that you can control. This often involves creating certain diet, exercise, and stress relief habits. They also hold you accountable for changing these behaviors. And they’ll keep you motivated along the way.
As much as a physician may want to do all these things for their patients, they simply don’t have time. A health coach does. You’ll work very closely with a health coach. You may see them weekly, biweekly, or monthly. This is way more often than you’ll likely see medical healthcare providers.
That being said, some medical practices have health coaches on staff. This can offer patients the benefit of both services. It can also go a long way in improving patient health outcomes.
If you’re interested in focusing on preventative care, there are a few ways you can do it. You can offer to work with clients individually or provide group health coaching. Working with individuals enables you to provide more specialized assistance. Working with groups enables you to help more people at one time. You can also earn more doing the latter, even by charging lower rates.
If you typically charge $100 an hour for an individual health coaching session, for example, you could offer an hour-long group health coaching session for $50 per participant. As long as you have at least three people sign up, you’re earning more for your time. You’re also saving each person half the cost, which can be a huge incentive for them to want to work with you.
The most important thing to remember as a health coach is that it’s important to stay within your scope of practice. Even though you have advanced knowledge of chronic illness, you still can’t diagnose or treat these conditions. What you can do is help these clients develop healthy habits to improve their overall health and meet their wellness goals.
If you’re not yet certified, taking a health coach training course can help you identify the differences. This type of course also helps you develop the skills needed to affect positive behavior changes. You learn the information necessary to promote and support preventative care. This includes understanding what to include in a client’s behavior change plan to help them reach their health goal or goals.
You can become a Certified Health Coach with ISSA’s online training program. This course teaches you how to help clients develop and maintain healthy lifestyle challenges. You also learn the best lifestyle change approaches for clients with a chronic health condition.
Co-occurring disorders: Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. Anxiety and Depression Association of America, ADAA. (n.d.). https://adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/co-occurring-disorders
The Cost of Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. (n.d.). https://www2.diabetes.org/about-us/statistics/cost-diabetes