Where Health Coaching and Health Equity Meet: Rationale of Service

Updated: Jun 12


Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

(June 11, 2020) In these three months since founding Health Coaches Without Borders, we have explored how health coaching serves in the nexus between COVID-19, chronic disease, and today’s rampant, systemic inequity.


When the urgency of life itself seems at stake, what does it mean to focus on individual self-maintenance and care, and beyond that, encourage self-empowerment to take control of one’s own health as an agent of change?


In light of recent events in the US, protests against police brutality, and a spike of both state sanctioned violence and civil unrest, this question is even more urgent.


Coaching Upstream Toward Equity


Health Coaches Without Borders was first and foremost founded on the belief that in a world where chronic disease makes up 71% of deaths each year, habit change and self-care is a need, not a luxury.


With that in mind, providing pro bono health coaching services for individual impact can provide a channel upstream toward a better, broader playing field for health equity.


That is why we stand in solidarity with the urgent efforts across the United States, and globally, promoting equality of rights and livelihood. For the field of health coaching itself relies on the principles of equity - all people have the right to good health and wellbeing, and that starts with being able to breathe and live safely. The unconditional positive regard that coaches must hold for their clients, as per national coaching standards, cannot and will never be determined by that client’s social determinants of health.


Normalizing Health Coaching


We know that efforts toward self-development and certain kinds of lifestyle changes are often criticized as being frivolous, expensive, or in other ways out of reach. And, we recognize that critique as representative of the frustration felt when told a better way to live, without having access to the resources or opportunity required to make that change.


Therefore, as it seeks to grow and normalize within the changing standards of healthcare, health coaching as a field has a responsibility to include equity and access as an ethical call within its scope. Without it, health coaching will forever remain faddish, as something that only a certain kind of person wants to or can afford to do.


Our Ethics


The National Board of Health and Wellness Coaching includes in its ethics a requirement of conduct telling health coaches to: Refrain from unlawful discrimination in occupational activities, including age, race, gender orientation, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, national origin or disability; and consistently demonstrate dignity and respect in all professional relationships. They have also just announced they are developing a plan to lead a diversity and inclusion movement for health & wellness coaching.


Health Coaches Without Borders is grateful to see that important ethic highlighted and excited to see that this critical plan is underway. We seek to further engage around equity with regard to poverty and inability to pay for services. It is widely understood that economic status and purchasing power is an undercurrent running through all other social determinants of health.


Both Jobs and Accessibility


As health coaches ourselves, we are also aware of our own social status and determinants, both as individuals and as participants in the ongoing normalization of health coaching as a profession. Providing services pro bono relies on an individual’s ability to sustain voluntarism, and therefore on a field with ample enough employment that its professionals are able to volunteer.   


That is why we hope that together with the broader functional health and wellness movements, and others, we can be part of the greater shift for healthcare needed. One that equally values the field of health coaching and the relevance of health equity, so that both access to jobs and to pro bono service becomes more supported and available. 


Volunteering For Change


To this end we are working toward the day where the rampant underpinnings of inequity that make such an ethical requirement necessary no longer pervades healthcare. Providing health coaching freely to those most in need is one of many ways along the path to comprehensive equity. To this end, we seek to bring value to the field of health coaching through voluntarism.

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