New UH Program to 'Coach Up' Aspiring Community Health and Well-Being Professionals

UH Population Health Program Preparing Tomorrow's Health Coaches

By Mike Emery

Sometimes, all it takes is an effective roadmap to steer us toward healthier lifestyles. Whether that map leads to a healthier diet, more exercise, better sleep or disease prevention, a helpful guide or a friendly voice can make a major difference in our lives.

That’s where health and wellness coaches come in. These health professionals form collaborative working relationships, so their clients identify their own challenges and pathways toward healthy lifestyle changes. Coaches provide motivation and encouragement along with support and practical guidance to lead individuals toward positive and lasting change.

Although they are not physicians, health coaches impact the lives of others each day. You can find them in clinics, community centers, gyms and other locations. These practitioners are in demand across the nation and are part of a booming industry.

Very soon, aspiring health coaches can look to University of Houston Population Health to prepare them for successful careers in this growing field.

This June, UH Population Health will launch its Center for Excellence in Health Coaching offering an Integrative Health and Well-Being Certificate. Enrolled students will complete an online 10-month program that includes coursework and the development of coaching skills in the field.

During the program, students will gain knowledge in the foundations of health coaching, positive psychology, social determinants of health and other pragmatic applications of the discipline. Ultimately, they will apply what they have learned to field practice with faculty mentors and actual clients. Curriculum is guided by the standards and competencies of the National Board for Health and Wellness Coaching (NBHWC).

Students successfully completing this program will be eligible to take NBHWC’s exam, which is the gold standard for all certified health coaches. Successful completion of this exam will provide the credentials necessary for professional opportunities as coaches.

The program’s faculty members have all met NBHWC’s requirements and are certified health coaches. Their guidance and mentorship separate UH Population Health’s program from others, said Adam Martinez, administrative director of population health education at UH.

According to Martinez, graduates of many other programs must seek out and complete practice sessions before applying for the national exam. UH Population Health’s program, however, will provide students with the practice hours needed to sit for NBHWC exam.

“This is an incredible value to our students,” he said. “They are exposed to rich content and receive mentored support as they work to become certified health coaches.”

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a steady rise in the number of health coaches over the next decade—approximately 6,650 job openings annually.

UH Population Health’s (UHPH) commitment to this program also is a benefit to students. Since its inception, UHPH has been engaged in a range of initiatives focused on advancing quality-of-life within the region and addressing the factors affecting the well-being of community members.

Last year, UH Chief Population Health Officer Bettina Beech further committed to supporting the growth of health coaches after her appointment to the NBHWC.

 “Health coaches are playing an integral role in people’s lives,” Beech said. “This is a rising industry with practitioners providing essential services to communities right here in Houston and throughout the region.”

“We are confident that our students will make an impact in their respective communities,” Martinez added. “Too often, physicians do not have the bandwidth to offer the same services as health coaches. Their volume of patients prohibits their ability to sit down with patients and help them effectively manage chronic disease or develop health-related strategies and goals. Its ability to positively impact the long-term health and well-being of others  is why the role of a health coach is so important right now.”