“Kendra, you should be the Ehlers-Danlos Coach. You could start a coaching school and make a lot more money than you are right now.”a misinformed friend.

Me“Well, I could, but there’s a lot more that goes into offering a coaching certification, especially when working with patients who have EDS. Who would certify my program? How would I provide actual certifications to those who were a part of my EDS Coaching program?”

Misinformed friend“You. You just make up a certificate and give it to them. You would make a lot of money.”

Me“No, I’m not in this for the money, not that making money is bad. However, I could never make up a certificate and give it to people — not without working with reputable credentialing organizations, and the physicians I work with. There’s so much more that goes into health education and health and wellness coaching. There needs to be more prerequisites and education required, than what I can throw together on my own. Even still, it also takes a ton of planning and time to do it the right way. I could never do something that wasn’t done the right way, nor could I do it just because I can (because of lack of regulations).”

This article is an important one — especially because the mission of EDS Wellness involves health education and tax-exempt services which include health and wellness “coaching.” Health and Wellness Coaching is believed to be one of the largest growing fields both in interest and demand in the healthcare industry. Similarly,employment of health educators is expected to grow by 18 percent, which is faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. Growth will result from the rising cost of healthcare.” To read the Bureau of Labor Statistics’, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010‐11 Edition, the job description for Health Educators, please go to http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos063.htm.

At present, the world of health “coaching” is not governed by a set of regulations or accreditation guidelines for either health and wellness coaching education and certification programs, or those individuals who wish to become health coaches. Anyone can be a “health coach.” And any health coach can provide health and wellness counseling (or “coaching”) to clients — regardless of education, experience in the field, reputation of the training or certification program he/she went through, or lack thereof. The same applies to patient advocacy. However, the average person wanting to work with a health coach has no idea how to determine if someone has the proper education, resources, and experience to help develop an individual health plan — one specifically based on hers/his barriers to successful behavior change, and overall wellness. Similarly, there’s no way for patients to verify stated credentials either. Due to lack of regulations and guidelines, those who have a degree in the field, or received a certification from a reputable program, are indistinguishable from those who received a certificate from non-reputable “coaching program,” or from those who lack proper education and training. It’s also an entirely different level of education.

The words “health” and “coach” tend to carry a perceived sense of authority or level of knowledge without the need to validate or ask about credentials. When used together, the words health and coach seem to be even more powerful. Health education (lumped under the broader field of Public Health) and health and wellness coaching both share a common focus — the seven pillars of wellness, yet most patients do not understand why this foundational model would be important for a health coach to integrate when developing someone’s individual wellness vision, or setting health goals. Health coaches often are personally into working out and nutrition, went through a significant lifestyle change (or, most due at some point or for one reason or another), and is usually someone who a lot of people go to for help for a specific health or medical questions — and rightfully so. However, someone’s personal interest, do not equate to the level of education, ability, and qualifications for actually providing health coaching or “health counseling” services — especially to those who live with a chronic medical condition(s).

“Coaching” someone through successful behavior change and onto a lifetime of wellness vs. illness is as simple as providing basic information on clean eating, a few recipes and telling them to workout – right? Not so much. 

Until recently, the caliber had not been set for health coaching. Differentiating between individuals who have valid qualifications is critical when an organization is providing tax-exempt services, especially if these services include health and wellness coaching. Similarly, the development of health education programs and curriculums, especially ones targeted at at-risk or special needs populations, is part of putting together a successful “coaching” program — something that is often not a focus in health coaching programs and it does not necessarily need to be either. Personally, I believe a health coach must learn the needs of a community as a whole before he/she can understand the personal needs of an individual within a particular community. If a health coach is not familiar with all components that contribute to the health and wellness of a population, you will not be able to help the individuals who are a part of that community. This is particularly important for the broader chronic illness community.

As a result, I worked on gathering research on the health and wellness coaching industry, as well as the current issues this industry is facing — solely because of how popular it is. There’s an apparent lack of regulations, and we clearly need them. My research uncovered the real problems with the lack of guidelines and accreditation for coaching certificate programs and the implications it’s having on the healthcare industry and patient care. Moreover, there’s apparent need for people with public heath degrees, or certified health educators, to take a standardized health coaching certification exam, now that an organization is thankfully wrangling this mess. All those who have college degrees and experience in the field can test in 2017 for the new board certification. There also certain certification programs that have been approved based on the idea that people will still want to have to have a “certificate” in health coaching from an accredited school.

While health coaching is obviously a huge area of interest and need, what’s alarming is that my research uncovered that the average person believes that the title of “health coach” requires more training, education or a standardized certification exam, over someone who’s title states health educator or if he/she has a C.H.E.S after their name. C.H.E.S stands for Certified Health Education Specialist — a certification exam that can be taken twice a year by individuals with a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree in Public Health, or a related Degree program. Public Health specialists and community health educators work on a much larger scale first, to develop and implement health and wellness programs. Once programs are implemented, health educators often work one on one with patients. Until now, there was no way for me to distinguish the work I do, my education, and the services offered by EDS Wellness and how any of it is different from or more reputable than someone who states that he/she is a “health coach.” However, there are differences – big ones, especially for patients with chronic Illnesses. Thankfully, regulations are happening, and momentum is swinging in a big way towards the standardization of educational requirements and a proper certification exam for all health and wellness coaches.

“Health and Wellness Coaches partner with clients seeking self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values, which promote health and wellness and, thereby, enhance well-being. In the course of their work health and wellness coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, and honoring that each client is an expert on his or her life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.”

Read more by going to http://www.ncchwc.org/donate/

Both health/wellness coaching and patient advocacy are jobs that were created by people based on need before accredited programs were put into place. At the same time, many certified Public Health and Kinesiology programs did not see then need to distinguish health coaching or patient advocacy from their already established programs – the “job description” of a health or wellness coach or patient advocate is already integrated into these programs. It’s already a part of the education – just on much bigger scale. As I mentioned above, Health Educators develop and implement the massive nation-wide or global health education campaigns, and write the grants to fund them — all based on the research we do that proves the particular need. Once programs are implemented, health educators then often work one on one with patients at many locations that are implementing the program we developed – Ie. Non-profits, health clinics, work-site wellness programs, hospitals, and more. Health educators work side by side with the physicians who diagnosis and care for the population we developed a specific program or campaign for. In fact, many of our physicians and allied healthcare providers are health educators and health coaches themselves.

What is the difference between a health coach and a certified health education specialist?

When looking at definitions of both careers, there’s not much difference between a health coach and a health educator, but I’m sure some would debate the difference. The truth is, the roles and possible differences are still being worked out; however, many people who are health educators and C.H.E.S certified are also health coaches — the reverse is not the same. Additionally, the job/career of a health coach is a newer once; hence, the need for the job and educational guidelines, as well accreditation and certification standards. Many people naively believe that the job function of navigating someone’s health behaviors is simple, and requires basic knowledge mainly on nutrition and exercise, with a little mindfulness thrown in. While that may work for some, the role of a health coach or health educator is much like a counselor, but with a particular focus. The focus of a health coach and a health educator is something that governs all aspects of someone’s overall life — their overall health and well-being. Someone’s health and overall well-being dictate their ability to function, and both health educators and health coaches are trained to factor in each component that may affect someone’s ability to live well. Health educators play a critical role between a patient’s health care providers, and their personal health and wellness vision and goals. Health educators are patient advocates and grant writers, they develop and implement health and wellness programs, they work on and lobby for health policy, and on the larger public health campaigns — health educators are health coaches before health coaching became popular. See job descriptions below.

What is a Certified Health Education Specialist?

“In a career as a certified health education specialist, you help others achieve their maximum health and wellness through educational programs and guidance. Read the following article to learn about the responsibilities, educational requirements, and employment statistics for certified health education specialists. Schools offering Health Education degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Responsibilities and Duties

As a certified health education specialist (CHES), you’ll work with individuals and communities to improve or maintain their health by engaging in behaviors that promote positive health. You’ll also be responsible for setting up and managing various programs aimed at bringing information on exercise, nutrition, and disease prevention to those who need it. It’ll be your job to make sure that people receive the health resources that best benefit them and pertain to their personal situations and cultural norms. Additionally, the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing (NCHEC) cites seven key areas of responsibility for health educators (www.nchec.org). These include the following:

  • Assessing individual and community need for health education
  • Planning health education strategies, interventions, and program
  • Implementing health education strategies, interventions, and program
  • Conducting health education evaluations and research
  • Health education administration and management
  • Providing health education resource
  • Health education communication and advocacy.”

Job description shared from http://learn.org/articles/What_Does_a_Certified_Health_Education_Specialist_Do.html.

Where do Certified Health Educators work? 

  • Business/Industry: To improve the health of employees. Chronic diseases and unhealthy behaviors affect the ability to work and increase employers’ workers’ compensation and health care costs, work‐related injuries, absenteeism, as well as decreased productivity.1
  • Hospitals, Clinics and Health Plans: To promote healthy lifestyles, help patients and families recover from illness and manage their condition, and provide training
  • Municipal/County/State Public Health Departments: To promote and protect the health of all populations living in their geographic area and achieve public health goals.
  • Nonprofit/Voluntary Organizations: To provide education and services related to a particular disease or priority population.
  • Schools & Universities: To assist students adopt healthful behaviors thereby improving academic performance.2
  • Universities: To provide specialized curricula and instruction for future health educators and to conduct research on effective programs, policies and interventions.

Where Are Health Education Specialists Trained?

“More than 250 professional preparation programs around the country provide formal degrees in school and community/public health education at the baccalaureate, masters and doctoral levels. Many health education specialists hold master’s degrees from schools and programs in public health. Curricula include a unique combination of instruction from the behavioral/social, epidemiological, environmental, and biomedical sciences, as well as health administration and public policy.”

Read more by going to https://www.sophe.org/Sophe/PDF/What%20is%20a%20Health%20Ed%20Specialist_10.20.10.pdf

What is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) or (MCHES)?

“The CHES designation signifies that an individual has met eligibility requirements for and has successfully passed a competency‐based examination demonstrating skill and knowledge of the Seven Areas of Responsibility of Health Education Specialists, upon which the credential is based. MCHES, the masters level certification, includes a set of advanced eligibility requirements. Certification is provided by the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing, which has an ongoing commitment to continuing education.”

You can learn more by going to https://www.sophe.org/Sophe/PDF/What%20is%20a%20Health%20Ed%20Specialist_10.20.10.pdf.

To read the seven areas of responsibility of health educators, go to http://www.nchec.org/assets/2251/hespa_competencies.pdf.

What is a health coach?

“Health and Wellness Coaches partner with clients seeking self-directed, lasting changes, aligned with their values, which promote health and wellness and, thereby, enhance well-being. In the course of their work health and wellness coaches display unconditional positive regard for their clients and a belief in their capacity for change, and honoring that each client is an expert on his or her life, while ensuring that all interactions are respectful and non-judgmental.”

Qualification word cloud, education business concept

Image/graphic shared from http://www.ncchwc.org/credentials/

Read more by going to http://www.ncchwc.org/

Additional information and job description for health coaches:

“The main function of a health coaches is to help clients to cultivate a healthier lifestyle. Examples of specific duties may include:

  • Assessing a client’s current health condition
  • Developing health goals for a client
  • Providing counseling services
  • Documenting a client’s progress
  • Conducting behavioral health screenings
  • Establishing a client’s treatment plan
  • Education for Health Coaches

Students interested in a health coach career should begin by completing a bachelor’s degree in a field-related discipline such as nutrition, counseling, fitness, psychology, wellness, nursing or health care. Although a bachelor degree is considered a professional standard, job candidates that hold a master’s degree or higher will likely benefit from preferential treatment during the hiring process. When choosing a degree program, students are encouraged to select one that integrates classroom instruction with experiential learning.”

Read more by going to http://www.nutritioned.org/health-coach.html

Additional information about the current need for regulations and accreditation guidelines is included below. One well-known health coaching school is listed on NCCHWC’s list, but it’s listed with an asterisk which means that a program is required to complete an additionalNCCHWC-Approved “Top-up Course” for graduates to be eligible to sit for the NCCHWC National Examination projected for fall of 2017.”   (http://www.ncchwc.org/organizations/): 

Accreditation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Are all holistic health credentials the same?

A. No. The accreditation and approvals held by an institution and its programs affect what you can do with your training, including whether you can use that credential on a resume, gain insurance, or qualify for industry approvals or registration examinations. For example, if you graduate from a school that is not accredited by a U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting body, the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization would not accept your training, and you could not be hired for a position at ACHS. In fact, in Oregon and some other states that enforce education fraud, if you try to use a degree from a diploma mill, you can face criminal liability. Some students unwittingly enroll at diploma mill schools and do not discover this until they have wasted their time and money.

Q. Is DEAC accreditation equal to “regional” accreditation?

A. In every measurable way, yes! DEAC accreditation is just as valid as any regional accreditation. DEAC is listed by the U.S. Department of Education (since 1959) as a nationally recognized accrediting agency and a recognized member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) (since 1975). DEAC meets precisely the same standards as do the regionals, and has vastly more experience, and tougher, more stringent standards for distance learning than any other agency in the U.S. Distance Learning is DEAC’s only business.

Click here to view a letter from the U.S. Department of Education certifying DEAC’s Recognition.

Q: If a school says it’s accredited, is that enough? Surely if it weren’t true, they would be held liable?

A. No. Sadly some schools mislead students about the validity of their accreditation. Don’t be misled by claims of  “accreditation” by organizations such as the American Association of Drugless Practitioners (AADP) or the American Naturopathic Medical Accreditation Board (ANMAB), who are not approved accrediting bodies. Qualifications from a school or college that claim accreditation from these organizations will make it difficult to transfer credits to other USDOE accredited colleges.

Q: How Can I Find Out if An Institution is a Diploma Mill?

A: The Oregon Department of Education website provides information on national diploma mills and schools offering unauthorized degrees. We suggest you spend time reading through this information before you invest in your holistic health education. Read online here.

Q: If a school has quality certification, isn’t that the same thing?

A: No. Don’t be misled by claims of Quality Certification by organizations such as the U.S. Distance Learning Association (USDLA).

Q. Will the credits I receive from ACHS, as a DEAC-accredited institution, be accepted by a traditional college or university?

A. It depends on. Acceptance of degrees or credits from DEAC-accredited institutions is largely determined by the policy of the “receiving organization,”, e.g., an employer, a college registrar, etc. DEAC accreditation is not a guarantee that credit will transfer to any college or university. You should always check with the college or university that you wish to transfer your credits to before you enroll in a course. DEAC’s 2006 survey of DEAC graduates showed that of those who attempted to transfer credits and degrees, 70% were satisfied.

Q: Does the Army view national and regional accreditation the same for purposes of tuition assistance and recognition of training?

A: The short answer is yes. View this information paper about accreditation from Dr. Pamela Raymer, the Director of  Army ACES in Fort Knox, online here.

We encourage you to explore additional FAQs from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission website at DEAC.org.”

To view original link, go to https://www.achs.edu/accreditation-frequently-asked-questions-faqs (ACHS -American College of Health Care Sciences)

Locate accredited colleges – http://www.chea.org/search/default.asp

Recognized Accredited Organizations – http://www.chea.org/pdf/CHEA_USDE_AllAccred.pdf

“Degrees issued by institutions that are accredited by an accrediting body recognized in the database maintained by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (www.chea.org) are typically accepted. Please note that individual degree programs that have not been accredited by the recognized programmatic accrediting body might not be allowed. Degrees issued by different colleges and universities may be accepted if an applicant or employee presents evidence to demonstrate that the level represents education equivalent to similar studies at an accredited university.”

Degree Mills – http://www.chea.org/pdf/degree_mills_effective_practice.pdf

Degree mills are the result of the expanding pressure on students to obtain higher education credentials, on employers to hire individuals with such credentials and on countries to expand the knowledge base of their workforce and to meet demands for creative and innovative responses to educational needs.

Students may be looking for shortcuts to education credentials as they seek employment. Some students are misled by what is stated by degree mills, but others knowingly pay a significant fee in order to claim (falsely) that they have completed a legitimate course of study leading to reliable certification. Unscrupulous individuals respond, exploiting the current demand for higher education credentials in many countries. The Internet gives these individuals an instant platform from which to launch degree mills, which students often cannot readily distinguish from the online learning opportunities or those governed by legitimate institutions.”


We are likely to be dealing with a degree mill when the operation is accurately described by some or all of the following. Any one of these descriptors should be cause for concern. “Degree mills”:
* Lack legal authority to operate as higher education institutions or award degrees.
* Require little if any attendance, either on-site or online.
* Require little if any coursework or few if any assignments to obtain a credential.
* Do not provide information about location of incorporation, ownership or governance.
* Provide little or no contact information other than telephone or email address.
* Publish false or exaggerated claims of external quality review (accreditation or quality assurance).
* Issue degrees that are not accepted for licensing or entry into graduate or professional programs in the degree mill’s home country.
* List academic sta whose degrees were issued by degree mills or are unable to provide verifiable lists of academic standards and their qualifications.
* Plagiarise material from legitimate institutions for inclusion on degree mill Websites.
* Feature Websites with Internet domain registration that is obscured by a privacy service rather than being publicly accessible.”

In order to help combat degree mills and provide standard for accreditation, NCCHWC (National Consortium for Credentialing Health & Wellness Coaches) has partnered with National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) to publish guidelines and accreditation requirement for both certifying institutions and a national certification exam that all individual health and wellness coaches will be required to take. The application period for the first certification examination is expected to open in early 2017.

Here is why the initiative to have a standardized set of criteria that all health and wellness coaching schools must meet and a nationally recognized certification exam that all health and wellness coaches must take is so critical.

“The National Consortium for Credentialing of Health & Wellness Coaches (NCCHWC) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) have signed an agreement for the launch of a national certification for individual health and wellness coaches in the US. The application period for the first certification examination is expected to open in early 2017.

The agreement is a major landmark in the ongoing efforts of NCCHWC to establish a national certification that grounds both professional practice and education standards in the field of health and wellness coaching. NCCHWC, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization formed in 2012 after three years of preliminary work, assembled a volunteer team of experienced educators and leaders to unify inter-professional perspectives and follow best practices to identify national standards. Key milestones in this process included a national stakeholder summit, a Job Task Analysis, and a national validation survey to clarify the tasks performed, as well as the minimum requisite skills and knowledge needed for effective practice.

A seminal co-founder of the NCCHWC, Karen Lawson, MD, identified this agreement as a “pivotal event in the evolution of health and wellness coaching. We appreciate the assessment expertise, psychometric rigor, testing implementation, and professional credibility offered by the National Board of Medical Examiners.”

The intent of the long-term strategic relationship is to build the emerging profession of health and wellness coaches and to finance, develop, implement and further promote high standards of training, education, research, and credentialing for the health and wellness coaching profession. 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.”

Read the entire press release here. 

Furthermore, NCCHWC has implemented a transition plan to allow for both educational and training programs, as well as current health and wellness coaches to make the necessary adjustment to meet the new educational criteria and certification guidelines.

“Practical Skills Evaluation

The health and wellness coach training and education programs will be required to deliver practical skills assessment and written evaluation. A link to the basic skills recommended for assessment will be available soon.

These recommended standards for training, education, mentoring, and practical assessment are offered by NCCHWC as a minimum standard for health and wellness coaches. Programs are encouraged to retain and develop their individual pedagogic philosophies and unique approaches to training and educating health and wellness coaches.”

To read more, go to http://www.ncchwc.org/organizations


NCHEC Certified Health Education Specialist Logo

Additionally, here’s a PR Release from 2010 that describes the role of a health educator. It provides insight into how and why I developed EDS Wellness — a concept and business structure that is a bit different from other organizations. EDS Wellness’ mission revolves around education, curriculum development and more. My bachelor’s degree is from The University of Maryland School of Public Health. The program at the University of Maryland is an accredited public health program which focuses on the understanding of human health behaviors, and the perceived and real barriers to the health of a community and that of an individual, which ultimately impacts the success of behavior change and individual’s ability to achieve wellness. I’m taking the C.H.E.S recertification exam on October 15th, 2017.

“The Society for Public Health Education (SOPHE) proudly releases a new video showcasing the various roles, work settings, specialized training, and valuable contributions of health education specialists to enhancing the quality of life for all. The 2.5 minute production, Health Education Specialists: Promoting a Healthy World, showcases this exciting occupation, which the U.S. Department of Labor predicts will grow by 18 percent, which is faster than the average for all occupations through 2018.

Chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, consume more than 75 percent of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care in the United States each year. By focusing on prevention, health education and health promotion specialists reduce the costs – both financial and human – spent on medical treatment. An investment of as little as $10 per person on proven preventive interventions could save the country more than $16 billion in just five years.

“Health education specialists bring specialized knowledge and skills to the front line of prevention efforts,” states Elaine Auld, MPH, CHES, chief executive officer of SOPHE. “This video is designed to help raise awareness of employers and the public about what health education specialists can do for them, as well as inspire young professionals to consider a health education career.”

Included are photographs of various health education specialists in action – including images of individuals testifying on health policy legislation, working with diverse populations to improve their health, conducting assessments and training, and using new technology such as GPS to help plan and evaluate evidence-based programs. At the click of the mouse, viewers have the opportunity to see the dynamic field of health promotion through the lens of health education specialists working in schools, government agencies, community organizations, businesses, health care settings, and international arenas.


Society for Public Health Education Logo

To view Health Education Specialists: Promoting a Healthy World, visit www.sophe.org/healthedspecialist.cfm which features additional resources on the health education profession. The video is also available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ErBECLCWNOkTo read the transcript of the quote above, please visit http://www.sophe.org/Sophe/PDF/Health%20Ed%20Video_final%20release.pdf


Additional Resources for Verifying Credentials, Looking up Accredited Programs and Universities, and to Research Health Careers: 

***Please note – not all articles and well-known coaching institutions are referenced above or listed below. If you have specific questions about the validity or reputation of a specific program or school, you can submit a question below or send an email to NCCHWC at Info@ncchwc.org.***

 May 2015 issue of the Global Advances in Health & Medicine Journal

List of non-accredited school – http://www.michigan.gov/documents/Non-accreditedSchools_78090_7.pdf

Accredited programs in public health – http://ceph.org/accredited

Explore health careers http://explorehealthcareers.org/en/home

List of EDS Wellness’ Professional Affiliations and Memberships

About EDS Wellness

Business Documentation 

About Kendra Neilsen Myles



Transcript from The University of Maryland School of Public Health – Bachelor of Science in Community Health Education



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