Does Wellness Coaching Deliver Results?


Sep 1, 2018 • 

One of the very first things I did when I started to explore wellness coaching as a potential next career was to find out if wellness coaching delivered desired results for clients. Being a trained pharmacist with a love for science and scientific evidence, I wanted to understand if one can expect a positive outcome.

The wellness movement began after the end of the Second World War largely because society’s health needs changed. Advances in medicines and technology meant vaccines and antibiotics reduced the threat of infectious diseases as the leading cause of death at that time. Today, chronic and lifestyle illnesses (e.g., heart disease, diabetes, cancer), associated with numerous stressors in life and the workplace, is a significant health concern for Wellness is becoming an investment that more and more people are turning toward. People want and need personalized wellness solutions and want to self-discover what will work best for them as an individual; they experience wellness as a process of being, and health as a state of being. Health care costs are burgeoning and many people are living longer than ever before. The notion of self-care through wellness coaching is becoming more appealing and exciting option for people.

Defining wellness coaching as a key behavioral intervention in healthcare

“A patient-centered approach wherein patients at least partially determine their goals, use self discovery or active learning processes together with content education to work toward their goals, and self-monitor behaviors to increase accountability, all within the context of an interpersonal relationship with a coach. The coach is a health care professional trained in behavior change theory, motivational strategies, and communication techniques, which are used to assist patients to develop intrinsic motivation and obtain skills to create sustainable change for improved health and well-being.” (5)

Patients with Coronary Heart Disease (CHD)

The Coaching patients On Achieving Cardiovascular Health (COACH) Program coached patients with coronary heart disease (CHD) to achieve the targets for their risk factors and to take the recommended medications as recommended by the best practice guidelines for the management of their particular medical condition while working with their usual doctor(s). 656 patients were coached up to six months at the end of the coaching phase follow up was monitored for a further 18 months follow- up. This study by Jelenik and others, has shown the changes in coronary risk factors status and adherence to cardiac medications achieved at 6 months in were sustained for at least 18 months after cessation of The COACH Program. (1)

Overweight or obese patients

Clark et al, published a study on 100 overweight or obese employees at Mayo Clinic who completed the 12-week wellness coaching program. These 100 wellness coaching completers exhibited significant improvements in: all 5 domains (physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and spiritual functioning) of Quality of Life and overall Quality of Life , reduced their level of depressive symptoms, and reduced their perceived stress level after 12 weeks of in-person wellness coaching, and they maintained these improvements at the 24-week follow-up. (2)

Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Thom et all, studied 158 patients with moderate to severe COPD in a randomized-controlled trial of 9 months of health coaching versus usual care. At 9 months, patients in the coached group reported better quality of care and were less likely to report symptom of moderate to severe depression compared to usual care. During the study, patients in the coaching arm had 48% fewer hospitalizations related to COPD. (3)

Patients with type 2 diabetes

Fifty-six patients with type 2 diabetes were randomized to either 6 months of integrated healthcoaching or usual care. Perceived barriers to medication adherence decreased, while patient activation, perceived social support, and benefit finding all increased in the coaching group compared with those in the control group. Improvements in the coaching group alone were also observed for self-reported adherence, exercise frequency, stress, and perceived health status. Coaching participants with elevated baseline A1C (>/=7%) significantly reduced their A1C. (4)


My scientific curiosity was satisfied knowing that published data is available documenting the important and significant impact wellness coaching can make in the lives of people. I am excited about this additional healthcare resource for people in support of the care delivered by physicians.


  1. Jelinek M et al. The COACH program produces sustained improvements in cardiovascular risk factors and adherence to recommended medications-two years follow-up Heart Lung Circ. 2009 Dec;18(6):388-92.
  2. Clark et al. The Effectiveness of Wellness Coaching for proving Quality of Life. 2014 Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. Mayo Clin Proc. 2014 Nov;89(11):1537-44
  3. Thom, DH et al. Randomized Controlled Trial of Health Coaching for Vulnerable Patients with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Ann Am Thorac Soc. 2018 Aug 21.
  4. Wolever RQ, et al. Integrative health coaching for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized clinical trial. Diabetes Educ. 2010 Jul-Aug;36(4):629-39.
  5. Wolever RQ, Simmons LA, Sforzo GA, Dill D, Kaye M, Bechard EM, Southard ME, Kennedy M, Vosloo J, Yang N. A systematic review of the literature on health and wellness coaching: Defining a key behavioral intervention in healthcare. Global Adv Health Med. 2013;2(4):34–53.




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