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The Role of Technology in Health Coaching

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A paintbrush in the hand of an accomplished artist will render a piece of art, while that same paintbrush in my hand will likely render a mess. The paintbrush is a tool—it neither paints the picture nor transforms its user into an artist. Technology, like the paintbrush, is dependent on who is using it and to what end. The impact of technology on health coaching is less about the technology and more about the health coach, their training and experience. 

Seventy percent of all deaths globally—40 million each year—are due to chronic disease (World Health Organization, 2005). But unlike communicable diseases, which have historically represented the greatest threat to mankind, chronic diseases are about lifestyle choice. In fact, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association revealed that the overwhelming majority of premature death and chronic illness in America was the result of three lifestyle choices: dietary pattern, physical activity and tobacco use (McGinnis and Foege, 1993). Therefore, helping people make self-directed lifestyle changes in these three domains is the vaccination against, and response to, the chronic disease pandemic. Interventions based on behavior change and health-coaching skills, like those supported by the ACE Health Coach Certification and the ACE Behavior Change Specialist Program, have been shown to facilitate change (Wolever and Dreusicke, 2016).

Technology in the hands of a trained and experienced health coach can render meaningful outcomes, helping people mobilize their internal strengths and external resources to achieve the wellness and sustainable change they seek. Interventions using mobile phone technologies such as text-messaging has shown to yield very positive results in HbA1c levels in people with type 2 diabetes versus control groups in a year-long random controlled trial (Park, Kim and Kim, 2009). Similarly, mobile phone text messaging was reported to significantly improve adherence to appointments and antiretroviral therapy, short-term smoking quit rates, and selected clinical and behavioral outcomes (Jones, Lekhak and Kaewluang, 2014). Arguably, the most valuable technology in health coaching is the smartphone, which evidence reveals is a difference maker in improving measurable clinical outcomes related to chronic diseases, especially when paired with a skilled and experienced health coach.

Why is the smartphone so important? In addition to providing quick and easy communication, it also acts as a platform for several other wellness technologies that can be relevant to a person’s health-based goals. Furthermore, it is especially effective for those struggling with lifestyle-based chronic

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