If you are a health coach or are interested in becoming a coach, you probably know that most health coach training tends to focus on the individual. One-on-one health, nutrition, and fitness coaching is very effective in improving health outcomes, improving client wellness, and, ultimately, making sustainable health behavior changes.
One-on-One Coaching vs Coaching at Scale
Health coaching doesn’t necessarily need to focus on only one person at a time. Personal health and wellness coaching is on one end of the spectrum; it focuses on the individual, and follows a “collaborative” model. Organizational and team coaching, a model that is often used in corporate environments, follows a mentoring model. On the opposite end of the coaching spectrum is community-based coaching (sometimes called community coaching), which follows a co-learning model.
Community-Based Health & Wellness Coaching
Community-based health and wellness coaching aims to work with community organizations and leaders to build a health-promoting environment. This includes physical, social, and political settings that support individuals and communities in achieving and maintaining optimal health. It addresses factors such as access to safe and healthy food, physical activity opportunities, clean air and water, safe and accessible housing, and access to healthcare and health information. It also includes supportive social systems and policies that promote health equity and help prevent disease and injury.
This article serves as an introduction to community-based health and wellness coaching by providing information on how it can contribute to population-wide health behavior change.
What is Community-Based Coaching?
Community-based coaching refers to a coaching approach that is focused on improving health and wellness outcomes for individuals and communities. In community-based coaching, coaches work with individuals, community-based organizations, and other stakeholders to address the unique health and wellness needs of a community.
Community-based coaching differs from traditional coaching models in that it takes a collective approach to the promotion of health and wellness. This type of coaching often involves partnerships with community organizations, outreach and engagement with community members, and culturally-responsive programming to address health disparities and improve health outcomes.
Unlike personal coaching, community coaching requires a degree of detachment and focuses attention on the dynamic evolving within the group. The coach acts as a facilitator for enabling an environment where groups work together to establish circumstances where health behavior change can take place on a community scale.
The goal of community-based coaching is to create sustainable and community-driven change by empowering individuals, organizations, and communities to improve their health and wellbeing. Community-based coaching can be applied to a wide range of health and wellness topics, including nutrition, physical activity, mental health, and more.
How to Promote Community Health and Wellness Through Coaching
There is no set formula for community-based coaching. In fact, one of the characteristics of community coaching is that it is necessary for coaches to be flexible, adaptable, and follow the lead of community leaders.
As you read through the different elements below, it may seem like a lot – and it is. Community-based coaching is one element of a much larger initiative to promote health within a community. Initiatives can include implementing a pilot project or state-wide public health program aimed at improving community wellness, or a multi-organization volunteer initiative. The representatives of groups and organizations, together with the community health coach, can be referred to as a community health and wellness team.
The Role of the Community-Based Health Coach Within a Community Health and Wellness Team
The Children, Youth, and Families At-Risk (CYFAR), in conjunction with the Kellogg Foundation, developed a community coaching field guide that details the role of the community health coach. The field guide suggests that coaches’ presence in communities can add value to current efforts by:
- Helping groups see the bigger picture by continually enlarging and clarifying the frame of reference.
- Identifying, modeling, and illuminating collaborative practices and the value of collaboration.
- Helping teams understand groups that might be potential partners and tying these to the teams’ strategic focus.
- Asking clarifying questions about how opportunities relate to the teams’ core purpose and current priorities.
- Helping the teams see, discuss, and determine what is doable at the intersection of projects, resources, and budgets.
- Defining, synthesizing, and communicating strategic considerations.
- Identifying and highlighting key learning opportunities. In terms of health and wellness promotion, some examples might be:
- How to develop or manage a new collective of wellness-promoting organizations
- How health-promoting programs can have a positive impact across geography, language, race, education, and income differences within the community.
Understanding the Community’s Health and Wellness Needs
One of the first things community-based health and wellness coaches and the groups they work with should do is identify the community’s health and wellness needs. It is likely that different organizations already have ample information on this topic related to their area of focus. For example, community clinics likely have information about the most common health problems, and recreation centers might be aware of some barriers to physical activity. Below are some topics to consider when identifying the community’s state of health and wellness.
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Identifying community health disparities
Community health disparities can be identified by analyzing data on health outcomes and risk factors for specific populations within a community. You can implement this process after establishing a team of community organizations who have key roles in the health promotion project or program. Some steps to identify health disparities include:
- Collecting data: If possible, with current resources and abilities, the community health team can gather data on health outcomes and risk factors, such as incidence and prevalence of chronic diseases, access to healthcare, and social determinants of health, for different populations within a community. Of course, collecting community-wide data first-hand can be costly.
- Analyzing data: Take some time to examine the information on health disparities you have available and identify trends and priorities. Depending on the abilities of the group involved, you can use quantitative data analysis techniques, such as statistical analysis, to compare health outcomes and risk factors for different populations and identify disparities. Remember to consider factors like access to healthcare, the cost of healthcare, the availability of affordable and healthy whole food, and access to green spaces. Take a moment to look at government and community websites, as this information may already be available.
- Engaging with the community: Engage with members of the community who are not part of the group heading up the initiative. This might include community-based organizations and advocacy groups who can help you gain a better understanding of the unique challenges and needs of different populations.
- Identifying trends and patterns: Look for trends and patterns in the data to identify areas where disparities are most pronounced and where interventions may be needed.
- Conducting surveys and focus groups: Conduct surveys and focus groups to gather qualitative data on health experiences and perceptions of different populations within a community.
By identifying health disparities and understanding their underlying causes, community leaders and healthcare providers can take action to promote health equity.
Assessing community resources and strengths
Assessing community resources and strengths is an important step in identifying and addressing health disparities. The following are steps that can be taken to assess community resources and strengths, based on the University of Kansas’ free Community Toolbox.
- Conduct a community assessment: A community assessment is a systematic process of gathering and analyzing data to understand the strengths, needs, and resources of a community. This can include data on demographics, social determinants of health, community assets, and existing health and social services.
- Engage with stakeholders: Engage with stakeholders, including community members, local organizations, and government agencies, to gather their perspectives on the community’s strengths and needs.
- Identify community assets: Identify and map the resources and assets within the community, including community centers, parks, healthcare facilities, and support organizations.
- Assess gaps in services: Assess gaps in services and resources within the community and identify areas where additional support may be needed.
- Evaluate current programs and initiatives: Evaluate existing programs and initiatives to determine their effectiveness and identify opportunities for improvement.
By understanding the resources and strengths of a community, organizations and community leaders can tailor interventions to meet the specific needs of the community and effectively address health disparities.
Building relationships with community members play a critical role in building relationships with community members and promoting health and well-being. Here are some tips for health facilitators to build relationships with community members:
- Listen actively: Show genuine interest in what community members have to say by actively listening to their perspectives, concerns, and needs.
- Build rapport: Building rapport with community members by being transparent, honest, and respectful in your interactions with them.
- Be culturally responsive: Be culturally sensitive and understanding of the unique needs and experiences of different populations within the community.
- Collaborate with community organizations: Partner with local organizations, such as community-based organizations, schools, and faith-based groups, to build relationships with community members.
- Engage in community events: Participate in community events and activities to build relationships with community members and gain a better understanding of the community’s strengths and needs.
- Empower community members: Empower community members to take an active role in promoting their own health and well-being, and provide them with the tools and resources they need to do so.
By building relationships with community members, health facilitators can gain a deeper understanding of the community’s needs and tailor interventions to meet those needs, promoting health equity and improving health outcomes.
Frameworks for Guiding Community-Based Coaching Initiatives
There are several frameworks that can guide community-based coaching initiatives. Some examples include:
- Community-Based Participatory Research (CBPR) – This framework emphasizes collaboration between community members and researchers to identify and address health and wellness issues in a community.
- Health Equity and Social Justice – This framework prioritizes addressing health disparities and promoting social justice by working with communities to identify and address root causes of health inequities.
- Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) – This framework focuses on identifying and building upon the strengths and resources within a community to promote health and wellness outcomes.
- Systems Thinking – This framework views health and wellness as interconnected and interdependent, and seeks to identify and address systemic barriers to health and wellness in communities.
- Culturally Responsive Coaching – This framework recognizes the importance of cultural competence and humility in coaching, and seeks to incorporate cultural practices and beliefs into coaching programs.
These frameworks provide a structure for community-based coaching initiatives, and can be tailored to meet the unique needs and resources of a specific community. By utilizing a community-based coaching framework, coaches can work with communities to create effective, sustainable, and culturally responsive health and wellness programs.
Suggestions for Collaborating with Community Partners
As a coach, collaborating with community partners is crucial for community health programs because it helps ensure that these programs are tailored to meet the specific needs and cultural context of the community they serve. By working with local organizations, businesses, and community leaders, programs can gain a better understanding of the health concerns and resources available in the area, and develop more effective and sustainable solutions.
To effectively collaborate with community partners, it is important to:
- Build trust: Build a relationship of trust with community partners by letting them lead the decision-making, and actively listening to and addressing their concerns.
- Identify common goals: Work with team members to identify shared goals and objectives and develop a shared vision for the health of the community.
- Be transparent: Be transparent about your role as a community-based health coach and ensure that partners have a clear understanding of the roles and responsibilities involved.
- Foster open communication: Encourage open and regular communication between partner organizations and team members to ensure that everyone is informed about the progress of the program, and to identify and address any issues that arise.
- Provide resources and support: Provide partners with the resources and support they need to effectively participate in and contribute to the community health program.
These components can help foster a successful and productive partnership with community partners and help ensure the success of your community health program.
Community-based coaching has the potential to play a crucial role in promoting health and wellness within communities. By working with local organizations, businesses, and leaders, community-based coaches can develop programs that meet the specific needs of the community and provide support to help individuals achieve their health and wellness goals. It is important to build trust, identify common goals, foster open communication, and provide resources and support to ensure the success of community-based coaching programs. Community-based coaching represents a promising approach to addressing the health and wellness needs of communities and improving overall health outcomes.