Perceptions of Health Coaching for Behavior Change Among Medicaid and Commercially Insured Adults

Amy McQueen, Matthew Kreuter, Molly Loughran, Tess Thompson, Tim Poor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Use of health coaching to help individuals make and sustain changes in health behavior and disease management is increasing, and early evidence about its effects is promising. However, few studies assess participants’ preferences and expectations about health coaches, the use of the term health coach, and the coaching relationship. To help inform the design of future health coaching programs, we conducted qualitative interviews with 50 U.S. adults (25 with Medicaid, 25 commercially insured) to assess their (1) sources of health information; (2) familiarity with, preferences for, and associations with 32 terms that could describe “someone who uses experience and one-on-one communication to help others change behaviors to improve their health;” and (3) perceptions of how well different terms apply across different health behaviors and for nonhealth concerns (e.g., financial, career). Results showed wide variability in preferences for different coaching terms and mental models of coaching that differed by insurance type. Commercially insured participants made a distinction between experts and supporters as different categories of coaches. Medicaid participants associated coach with sports and viewed the term as less professional. All participants preferred terms such as advisor and specialist, and all wanted content experts who could also appreciate the broader context of their life.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)288-297
Number of pages10
JournalHealth promotion practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • health behavior change
  • health coaching
  • health education
  • self-management

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