Health and Wellness Coaches Positioned to Receive National Certification

New Agreement between the National Consortium for Credentialing of Health & Wellness Coaches and the National Board of Medical Examiners Positions Field for Growth

National Consortium for Credentialing of Health & Wellness Coaches In what might be viewed as an agreement among strange bedfellows, the National Consortium for Credentialing of Health & Wellness Coaches (NCCHWC) has inked a deal with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). The two will launch a national certification for individual health and wellness coaches in the US. The first period for applicants is expected to open in early 2017.

The media release positions the agreement on the certification as “ground[ing] both professional practice and education standards in the field of health and wellness coaching.”

The agreement is a culmination of over 6 years of work that began with the credit given to health coaches as useful allies in the Affordable Care Act’s efforts to shift the medical industry toward keeping people healthy. A summit in September 2010 was followed by other “key milestones” according to the notice: Job Task Analysis (required for any formal certification process) and a national validation survey to clarify the tasks performed, as well as the minimum requisite skills and knowledge needed for effective practice.

Karen Lawson, MD

Karen Lawson, MD

Meg Jordan, PhD

Meg Jordan, PhD

Taking the lead in the effort were a quartet of national leaders in the field: Karen Lawson, MD, (pictured left), at the University of Minnesota;  Meg Jordan, PhD, (pictured right), at the California Institute for Integral Studies; Ruth Wollever, PhD, (pictured below left),at Duke Integrative Medicine ; and Margaret Moore, MBA, (pictured below right), at Harvard Medical School affiliate McLean Hospital. They have all been supported by a broader board of directors.

Lawson calls the agreement a “pivotal event in the evolution of health and wellness coaching.” She credits the coaches’ new partner: “We appreciate the assessment expertise, psychometric rigor, testing implementation, and professional credibility offered by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).”

Ruth Wollever, PhD Ruth Wollever, PhD

The NBME has held the responsibility of “assessing physicians’ readiness to practice medicine” for 100 years. The agency apparently “identified the certification of health and wellness coaches as a vital priority in addressing the national crisis in unhealthy lifestyles.” David Eisenberg, MD, an advisor to the NBME who was recently featured in an article, “played matchmaker in bringing NCCWHC and NBME together” last year.

Margaret Moore, MBA

Margaret Moore, MBA

The plan with this “long-term strategic relationship” is based on an assumption that “both organizations envision a professional community that is dedicated to high quality and continuous improvement and an advocate for the development and certification of high-quality coaching skills across healthcare, academia, and industry.” NBME president Donald Melnick, MD, is quoted saying that “moving the spectrum [of health] beyond physicians to include health and wellness coaches dedicated to helping the public with lifestyle improvement is part of our long-term vision.”

Comment: Start with a robust convening. Set a clear goal on the obvious value of a quality standard for the fractionalized health and wellness coaching field. Aggregate a top-flight leadership team. Attract philanthropic support. This seemed like a slam dunk.

After helping organizing some chiropractic and naturopathic representation at the September 2010 kick-off, and experiencing it directly, I have been utterly surprised that the journey to this point has taken so long. The glitch was that for some reason the group simply could not attract the kind of significant funding that the effort merited. I imagined that someone from the Bravewell Collaborative of philanthropists in integrative medicine, for example, would adopt the project.

Yet while the NCCHWC team pulled in grants of $10,000 or so and many self-funded the initiative, the big dollars did not come. The work, instead, was forced to move on the sheer perseverance of the leadership group. By necessity, coaching has come into being with a national certification standard through the kind of entrepreneurial sweat equity – equity in the cause, rather than something that funds retirement - that created the programs, licensing, and national certification infrastructure for the chiropractic, acupuncture, naturopathic medicine, massage and direct entry midwifery fields.

The NBME connection, through Eisenberg, is another surprising curve-ball. It will be interesting to see how this co-habitation with the field of medicine will work out. In an electronic note to The Integrator, a close participant wrote: “The health coaches have jumped in bed with the National Board of Medical Examiners. An amazing evolution in this country, when you think of the shift from 50 years ago when lifestyle factors didn’t much matter’ to now, today, when lifestyle interventions and talking to people in ways that motivate them are finally viewed as critical!”

Credit this sterling quartet, and the next layer of support around them. Here’s hoping the NBCE holds the NCCHWC as a sacred chalice.