Updated: Nov 12
Health coaching is a relatively new and small field in the Singapore health and wellness landscape. With an increasing burden of chronic illness the government has made some public announcements that health coaching will play a part in the transformation of the health service. We thought that this is an opportune time to look at what is happening in Singapore as well as to define what health coaching is.
The US National Board of Health and Wellness Coaches (NBHWC) defines the role of health coaching as:
“Health and wellness coaches engage individuals and groups in evidence-based, client-centered processes that facilitate and empower clients to develop and achieve self-determined, health and wellness goals.
Coaches assist clients to use their own insight, personal strengths, and resources to set goals, commit to action steps, and establish accountability in building an envisioned healthy lifestyle. In this way, coaches empower clients through encouragement, exploration, the mobilization of internal strengths, the identification and utilization of external resources, and through the support and development of self-management strategies for executing sustainable, healthy lifestyle changes.”
From the World to our Little Red Dot
Health coaching is now well established in key territories globally. The USA, UK, Australia and New Zealand all have formal bodies that provide a framework for the practice of health coaching, the certification and continuing education of their members.
In the USA there is the NBHWC, in the UK the 'Health Coaching Association' and in Australia and New Zealand the 'Health Coaches Australia and New Zealand Association'. As yet, Singapore (population 5.5 million) has no such body. The group most active in the promotion of health coaching is the Society of Behavioural Health Singapore. The society facilitates regular coaching focused workshops for its members and the public.
The Singapore government is adopting health coaching in its new national Healthier SG plan, a revamp of the healthcare system. Health coaching is part of ‘allied healthcare’. Healthcare providers distinct from doctors, nurses and dentists; this includes pharmacists, podiatrists, speech therapists to name but a few.
Somewhat surprisingly, health coaching is not currently listed (as at 21 April 2023) as an allied healthcare profession by Singapore’s Ministry of Health despite the call for health coaching. Health coaching courses are however available at a number of local universities.
The definition of health coaching and any potential framework or registry (as in the case for sports coaches) have yet to be formalised. The term health coaching or health coach is used relatively indiscriminately by anyone in the field of health and wellbeing, whether they have training in the discipline or not. At The Whole Health Practice Pte Ltd, we decided to gain board certification with the US’ NBHWC.
Given the government’s statements about the field, its statements regarding the use of health coaches to address chronic illness, it is safe to say that the medical community are familiar with the term however anecdotal reports indicate that some doctors do not properly understand what health coaching is nor accept the practice.
While the status of health coaching is still to be determined there is an increasing body of health coaches, some certified - others not, in Singapore. As with any growing industry there will have to be some balance between self and government regulation, particularly when it comes to health and wellbeing and we hope to play our part in the conversation.
If you are a health coach, resident in Singapore, consider joining the Society of Behavioural Health Singapore
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