Linda Funnell-Milner: Rethinking Healthcare with Health Coaching

Today, we're joined by Linda Funnell-Milner, a leading advocate for integrating health coaching into the healthcare system. With a diverse background spanning law, education, and various holistic modalities, Linda brings a wealth of expertise to the table. From her roles in prestigious medical associations to her founding of Health Coaches Australia and New Zealand Association, Linda is at the forefront of reimagining healthcare. Join us as we uncover the transformative potential of health coaching with Linda Finnell-Milner.

Linda Funnell-Milner: Rethinking Healthcare with Health Coaching

Linda Finnell-Milner, a multifaceted expert in health and wellness. With a diverse background spanning law, education, nutritional medicine, clinical hypnotherapy, and more, Linda brings a wealth of knowledge to her roles as a health practitioner and co-founder of Health Coaches Australia and New Zealand Association. Her dedication to integrative medicine and empowering individuals to take control of their health is truly inspiring.


Podcast Transcript

Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to Unstress. My name is Dr Ron Ehrlich. I’d like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which I’m recording this podcast. The Gadigal people of the Eora Nation pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. Indigenous approach to issues involves starting from a position of respect, then connecting with people in the country. The two are as we as they know and as we should know, are inseparable. Then a period of reflection and finally direction to get up and do things. We have a lot to learn.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:00:42] Well, many of you will in fact, all of us will have gone to the doctor at some point. And perhaps that doctor’s appointment was five, ten, 15 minutes. If it was more than 15 or 20 minutes, this would be rather unusual. And depending on whatever you approached your doctor with or went to see the doctor for, with the physical, mental health issues. 15 to 20 minutes doesn’t quite seem long enough to get things done, and it may go a long way to explain why the pharmaceutical industry is now $1.5 trillion a year industry. Yes, 1.5 U.S. dollars… Trillion dollars. That’s a lot of money. There is another way and there needs to be another way because health care is in a crisis and the crisis is not just for the public. It as we’ve heard in previous episode with Doctor Tabitha Healey. It’s also a crisis for the healthcare professionals themselves. So we need to rethink the way we deliver health care and do it in a more collaborative way. Change does not mean a rejection of the past. Change is a springboard to the future, and I believe the future involves health coaching as an integral part of the health system. So many advantages there. It’s a win for the health system. It’s a win for the medical practitioners and health practitioners. It’s a win for the patient or the client, as you will hear. And it’s obviously a win for the health coach, which you’ll also be hearing a lot more about today. This is a whole new era of health care for many of you, but it is a growing area and a very exciting and empowering area for all involved. My guest today is Linda Finnell-Milner. Now Linda holds degrees in law and education. She also has an advanced diploma in nutritional medicine, a diploma in clinical hypnotherapy, a certificate in neurolinguistic programming. And she’s also a health and wellbeing coach. And she received that from the Functional Medicine Coaching Academy. Now, until recently, Linda was working as a consulting nutritionist, health coach and clinical hypnotherapist in clinical practice. She currently holds a non-executive director board position with AMA, the Australian Integrative Medical Association, the Australasian Integrative Medical Association, AIMA, and is also a member of the Australasian College of Environmental Medicine ACNEM, which you’ve heard a lot about. So Linda, prior to being a health practitioner, Linda held corporate, managerial and senior executive roles internationally, developing strategic policies on global issues and was a registered political lobbyist. Now, with all that experience, she is also most recently the co-founder of Health Coaches Australia and New Zealand Association or if you want to visit the website of which I am now proudly a member. I hope you enjoy this conversation I had with Linda Funnell-Milner. Welcome to the show, Linda.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:04:08] Thanks, Ron, so much for having me. It’s great to be here.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:04:12] Linda. You know, we’ve known each other for quite a few years now, but most recently as I’ve transitioned into health coaching, it’s been a wonderful you know, you’ve been guiding me through this and I wonder… And a lot of people may not be aware of what is a health coach anyway. I mean, I think this is true of both doctors and the public. So let’s start from well, give us what is a health coach?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:04:37] Well, a health coach is an amazing person or is it a person or is it a set of skills, Ron? And because, you know, we can all be health coaches. And I came to health coaching because I needed it in my practice for my clients and my patients and all doctors and any even allied health professionals. We know compliance is at an 85% problem and one of the ways that we solve that is actually by being… Becoming more and more client-centred and helping them to solve what’s getting in their way from, you know, implementing the changes that they need to in their lives. And so a health coach is a person who has those behaviour change skills and is really just totally focussed on the relationship of the client to their own behaviour in their environment. So not in terms of, oh, you know, I’ve got a perfect food plan or I’ve got to perfect this, but really about. What’s going to help you kind of achieve your goals and where do you want to be and what’s getting in your way?


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:05:51] Hmm. Well, you know, the conference, the annual conference that was of the health coaches of Australia and New Zealand, HCANZA, which I want to talk about. But at that conference in Brisbane in August of 2022, what struck me most was the diversity of people there, the backgrounds and… That have chosen health coaching as a new career. And I’d love to talk about that, but I think actually knowing you and knowing your own health journey through the corporate world, I thought this was a great example of it because your journey is a particularly interesting one. Can you share it with us?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:06:29] Oh, sure. Well, I had… I actually was a… Worked in the corporate world for more than 20 years in Australia and I mean in big companies, in banking and, you know, property development. And I was an in-house legal person and also a political lobbyist within that field. And suffering burnout, which, you know, corporate environments are a classic place for that to happen. I decided to retire early and then but decided that I wasn’t done. You know, I needed more purpose in my life. And I couldn’t just go to the gym every day. But I actually wanted to live a purposeful life. And so I retrained as a nutritionist and a clinical hypnotherapist started working with clients. And so then very shortly after I got all those qualifications and I did start having my own patients, I realised that there was something missing because none of that actually teaches you how to be client-centred, how to be a good listener rather than a good teller, how to, you know, help people with their with their own behaviour changes. Because every client that comes to you is different and they all have their different challenges and they’re different roles that are getting in the way. And so that’s kind of been my journey, yeah.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:07:57] But it’s interesting that it’s kind of three, three leaps there that I can see. One is a period in the corporate world and studying to get to that position and feeling a little burnt out and we’ve covered the burnout topic before. You know, it’s quite a common, sadly, a common thing. But then moving into clinical practice as a nutritionist and hypnotherapist is one thing, but the difference between a practitioner and a coach is the next step, isn’t it? Because as a practitioner, well, what has that how does that differ? How does being a practitioner… How as being a coach differ from being a practitioner?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:08:38] Well, if you’re lucky enough to be a practitioner who has coaching skills and, you know if we’re being really honest in this conversation, which of course we are, Ron. You know, it’s best to have both and it’s not an either or, but an end conversation. And I realised very early on that from the second… From the second meeting with my client or my patient, I was coaching and I needed to be coaching them from then on. You know, once you as a nutritionist, once you’ve got a good patient history and you know, with a primary care practitioner is and you understand your own scope of practice, then actually. From that on and and actually talking about food and their values you know that from the next time they come back to you and you kind of go and how are you? Where are you up to? You’re coaching, and that’s the same for a doctor who has a client who comes to them consistently because they’ve got type two diabetes, you know, every single time after the diagnosis you’re coaching. And it’s a special set of skills, but it’s so exciting. That’s why health coaching is just absolutely taking off because people are actually realising how powerful it is in a health conversation that moves people forward rather than, you know, I have many doctor friends and their level of frustration with patients who just come back time after time after time. Just give me the tablet litany and walk away, come back. And because chronic disease is such a big issue in our health care system, we really do are looking for how do we move people through. To them, realising their health dreams. Not just putting the bandaid on, you know, a pill for an ill, but actually looking at the quality of their life and what their health aspirations are for them and the communities and the families that they live in. It’s that… It’s that next step.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:10:55] It’s a double-edged sword there, isn’t it, in that patient-doctor relationship, because the doctor has been trained to provide the quick pill for the ill. And the average… I think the average consultation in a GP’s practice is about 10 to 15 minutes, sometimes less, much less, sometimes a little bit more, but it’s about 10 to 15 minutes. So there’s that one side there about how much can be achieved. And the other side is the patient expectation of receiving a pill for every ill. So it’s a kind of a reconfiguring of both people’s expectation, isn’t it, to know what’s possible?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:11:38] Oh, sure, absolutely and… But that’s why it’s so exciting. Imagine every doctor in every clinic having access to be able to hand over a client, a patient with a prescription. And here is somebody who’s really going to help you solve those issues that are holding you back from realising your health dreams. You know, how exciting is that?


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:12:07] Oh, yeah, Absolutely. Go on.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:12:10] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, doctors, they do exactly what they are meant to do. Absolutely. They… They’re working every way they can. We know that they’re overstretched. And that’s why health coaches are such important resource… Resources to, you know, whether it’s public health or as consultants in the marketplace. The other thing that I noticed, Ron, is that, you know, do doctors have coaches? Do they get mentored as a business executive and I was an international business executive. I had a coach absolutely have a coach. You wouldn’t go into any corporate world these days and where the executives don’t have coaches. And look at doctors. Look at the, you know, the… Absolutely, stretched on all resources. Absolutely, stretched on hours. I can’t imagine that seeing a patient for 9 to 12 minutes is giving them the job satisfaction. The reason people go into public health for purpose and I can’t imagine the strain it must be to think that, well, I’ve got 12 minutes with this client and they could may need actually an hour.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:13:30] Yes. Well, interestingly, you mentioned the word burnout, and we’ve done a few programs on that and most recently we’ve done one with Dr Tabitha Healey, the medical oncologist who dealt with, on a personal level, dealt with burnout, but then is now coaching medical practitioners. And just to remind our listener, the features of burnout are disengagement, feeling ineffective and being exhausted. And Linda, she shared a statistic with me, which blew me away. And the research shows that 44% of doctors are suffering from burnout and 60% of nurses. And these are the people delivering our health system.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:14:16] Absolutely. And even a coach, if you’re not working as a entrepreneurial coach on your own, as a contractor, even you know what a coach can bring to those conversations that actually assist to improve job satisfaction for nurses and for doctors is an incredible asset. In fact, at the moment there’s a Federal Government inquiry going on in… It’s reviewing the scope of practice for doctors and nurses and her candour has put in a submission specifically talking about how nurses actually can be given these skills and that this actually has been shown through research internationally that nurses actually… It increases their satisfaction because they are dealing with patients in a in a completely different way. And they’re actually starting to. Feel like they are achieving more with those patients because they’re looking at the behaviour change instead of just the emergency. And we also talked about in our submission, which will be on our website very soon, we also talked about that. Health workers on country in Australia or health workers who are in rural and remote communities, all of those public health systems could really benefit from having health coaches as part of the mix in the public health delivery.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:15:51] Well, you know, that leads me into the next point that I wanted to ask you about, because in an ideal world, that was, dare I say, focussed on public health, I know that’s, you know, the rolls off the tongue easily, but it’s not achieved very easily with healthy outcomes for patients while not just managing disease and the average GP time is short. How would a health coach work within that system?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:16:17] Sure. So first I’ll talk about a little bit about possible structures within a conceptual framework of that. But then I do want to mention what New Zealand is doing. And so firstly, within the construct of our own public health system, a health coach could be in every GP practice and they could actually be employed by that practice and therefore get a constant flow of coaching clients to them. The doctor actually says he’s the program or the allied health professional says he’s the program. I’m going to hand you over to the coach and they’re going to answer all of your questions and help you implement this program. And so then the client actually sees the health coach between doctors visitations, and that coach could be working with them once a week, although that coach might be leading a group of, say, type two diabetes people with it… Who are all in that clinic and doing group coaching with them, where they’re all sharing their stories, they’re learning and helping each other on how they can implement on a daily lifestyle management process the aspects of type two diabetes. So there’s this wonderful support that actually can be house. The second one is that if, you know, a health coach can actually develop a relationship with the clinic and the clinic outsources that, but the coach sits outside of that. And then there are they could say a patient could seek out their own health coach and, you know, just from the public domain. So there are plenty of options. Shared medical appointments that are covered by Medicare can definitely be managed with nurses, registered nurses who have actually attained health coaching skills. So that’s possible within the current system. But let me just add that I know a lot of doctors actually do not know about shared medical appointments. And so even though it’s available to them, it’s not being utilised to the full extent that it could be.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:18:42] Just explain it to us.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:18:44] Well, she had medical appointments where there is a doctor and there is a facilitator, and they might be a group of people, say eight people who are all sharing similar aspects or a similar chronic disease or even different ones. But really what this is about is that the doctor is doing the blood pressure, looking at meds, whatever needs to be done in a normal session. That’s kind of all going on in a part of the room. But in the other part of the room, the discussion is being facilitated between that community in terms of, you know, how are they bonding, what are their struggles? How can they… Has anyone else in the group experienced that? How can they help each other and support each other? And then that group stays could stay together for six or 7 or 8 weeks. And so in that way, you’re kind of building communities that may exist even after the shared medical appointments and you can understand how in rural and regional communities. Wow, how powerful is that? It would be fantastic.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:19:58] Yeah. Tell me, you mentioned New Zealand. I’m assuming something positive is happening in that way in New Zealand?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:20:06] So in New Zealand, about three years ago, I mean, they had a crisis that they felt at the time really needed to be addressed and that was with mental wellbeing, especially in lower socioeconomic groups. And so they actually developed a program on mental wellbeing support programs. And so they put health coaches in every GP practice in New Zealand. Wow. And at the moment they’ve got and it’s fully funded and the training is funded also by the government. And it’s not training that… It’s not an approved… It doesn’t have as many hours in it. So the training is much less. But really what they’re being trained as peer support workers in mental wellbeing and they’re using lived experience, but they’re also getting training. Now, those coaches even, you know. As I said, fully supported by the government. You know, they could have up to 40 patients a week. Imagine the experience that they’re getting. And each time kind of working with that. So those coaches are in a primary care team. They’re not diagnosing or prescribing. So the doctors are still doing all of that. They could be the patient could be supported by a HIP, what’s called a HIP, which is a health improvement practitioner. And that could be a nutritionist or a psychologist or many things. And the coach is dealing with the lifestyle, medicine things and helping them to interpret the programs that the HIPs give them. And so you can see how as a group practice, these patients are fully supported. And in areas this is perfect. It’s a perfect model for our own country workers. And, you know, it has had great success. And so and that continues. So even though there’s been a change of government, you know, that program is being reviewed as we speak. But as I say, I mean, the standard for their coaching is not… Doesn’t make… It meets our associate level but doesn’t need our professional level. But again, I mean, they’re getting incredible experience, especially with Pacific and Maori populations. And I mean, New Zealand has a rural and regional issue just like we do. And in terms of meeting the needs of those communities. Can’t get enough doctors can’t, you know, can’t get nurses to stay exactly the same, exactly the same, different approach.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:23:00] I love this use of the term client instead of patient. And because patient, there’s something very passive about being a patient. You’re coming in to have your pill for your ill or a quick appointment with the doctor. But this use of the term client, I love this. It’s kind of… Got lots so many possibilities.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:23:23] Well, it’s class, but I mean, also we need to differentiate ourselves. Well, health coach, pure or just a health coach who isn’t co-qualified needs to understand that they’re not diagnosing or prescribing. And the public needs to understand that so that when somebody hires a health coach, their expectations are really about exactly what is this health coach going to do. And I’m co-qualified, but there are many coaches who aren’t co-qualified and… That even as a nutritionist, I call my patients clients because I’m not a doctor, you know.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:24:02] But interestingly, you know, this is what struck me in the… At the conference when I met so many of the people there, the backgrounds. Well, you came from a law, a legal background and lobbying background. But you then did a clinical qualification. But that’s not what a lot of health coaches do. And in fact, what they do have in common, in what I found was a disillusionment with what they were doing, the value of it, and looking for something more meaningful. So they became a health coach. Tell us what’s involved in becoming a health coach. You’re not a clinical person. A health coach.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:24:41] Well, I just want to underscore that people come from all sorts of places. And that experience of not finding that they’re totally dissatisfied with being part of the treadmill. Many of them come out with stress and realise that lifestyle, medicine and behaviour change is such a key ingredient. And they have their own health journeys. I mean, we have many coaches who nurses, many coaches who come out of all sorts of backgrounds, marketing, corporate backgrounds, the whole lot. And… But what I actually see is the power of lifestyle, medicine and the difference that that can make. Now many of them, you know, some people become coaches and then go on to do nutrition degrees or whatever they feel. And then there are people like Dr Tabitha Healey, who I’m so pleased to say is a member of our board. She’s an incredible gift to us and who came out of medicine and, you know, had that same disillusionment. But has… Is now finding a more purposeful way to be part of the solution for chronic disease in our society. And we need to care for our doctors and nurses. And so they do need coaches as well. But yeah, people come from all different backgrounds. We’ve got chiropractors and physiotherapists and mostly people come from some type of experience, business experience, whether they’ve been an employee or they’ve been a, you know, an entrepreneur. And especially people who come into cancer coaching. So coaching people who are either caring for or living with cancer, there’s a speciality area. And so many… I was not surprised, but many of our coaches have come from illness backgrounds where they just thought if I had had a coach, it would have made such a difference to supporting me through that process. People with autoimmune people who have long-covid, you know, all of these types of illness have very complicated solutions that are multifaceted and multi-task while a coach is a perfect person for helping them unlock that for themselves.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:27:16] And what I think… What I’ve observed when I’ve heard of people who are disillusioned with other jobs that come into this area, is so satisfying and actually a springboard to educating yourself in health care. And after 45 years in health care myself, I can honestly say that the more you learn about health care, the more you realise you don’t know. And there is so much to learn. And if you approach it with an open mind, it’s just a wonderfully satisfying, you know, experience. It’s not, you know, not one to be disillusioned with, that’s for sure.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:27:55] Correct. And, you know, kind of works on both the advocacy level of can we look at the system? Can we look at the, you know, the processes that have people churn through. Without moving forward in their health journey, as well as the very individuality of each and every patient, every client, and just really working in this beautiful space where people can take back not complete control, but some self-control. They can self-care. These things make a big difference. Getting good sleep, getting exercise, especially for people who have mental well-being issues or anxiety. You know, just a psychologist. Well, I would hope they do today. But do they ever talk to them about, well, you know, you can get endorphins from actually getting some exercise? What if we tried for you to get 150 minutes of exercise a week? What difference… Let’s experiment with that. Let’s see what it does for you. And, you know, alcohol, tobacco, all of the things the levers that are available to people. And I mean, when you’re a coach for a while, Ron, I don’t know about you, but kind of go, you know, none of this is rocket science. It’s just that people don’t realise they have the power.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:29:24] That’s right. And I think the role of the coach is almost like tapping the hoop along, you know, keeping life rolling along well, Whereas, you know, a 10 to 15-minute appointment when you’re having an emergency doesn’t do that. But it’s interesting too, and I know Tabitha Healey won’t mind me mentioning this because she mentioned it in the episode we did with her that here was a doctor who, you know, had many I mean, ten, 15 years of training. And then when she faced a health crisis herself, had to go on a retreat to learn about some of these very simple, basic lifestyle medicine interventions that are so effective.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:30:09] Yeah, exactly. And I mean, I think, you know, I mean, people listening to these women at our conference. But you were at a conference and you  heard from Dr Moon, a hunter who said… Who works on country to the indigenous population, but also urban indigenous populations. So the first thing she had to do was unlearn.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:30:29] Yes.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:30:30] She had to… She had to learn how to unlearn and be a… And be… Always being the technical expert field and… But that is… That’s a doctor’s training. Of course, you need to do that. And that’s the beauty and the expertise and the brilliance of what they all bring to the health conversation. I also work with a group called the Self-care Alliance, and HCANZA is part of that, you know, a supporter of that alliance. And they’re totally focussed on the population, the entire population, actually understanding what are their own levers for taking back control in their life of their health journey. And, you know, I mean, doctors aren’t taught that, that’s not because they’re, you know, they’re diagnosing they’re on the illness side of the equation. But imagine if we had a fully empowered population on self-care just to start with.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:31:30] Yes. Well, well, you know, I mean, the problem and we don’t need to go down this rabbit hole, but the problem is that good health does make sense, but it doesn’t make dollars. And the healthcare industry is a very, very big industry. I mean, the pharmaceutical industry is 1.5 trillion USD a year. And that’s got to come from somewhere and it doesn’t come from good health. So interestingly, though, I think the workplace is becoming an area that is much more focussed and it’s legally obligated now to manage and mitigate psychosocial risk and also physical risk. And I think there’s actually an interesting confluence of interests. I think there’s there’s a whole role for health coaches in the workplace as well as…


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:32:18] Completely and that is where look, that’s where it’s really being led at the moment through employee assistance programs. And that’s because there’s a new ISO standard on workplace mental wellbeing. And so, you know, they’re digital platforms and coaches are supporting those digital platforms. And again, how powerful is that? I came out of a corporate background, let me tell you. It would have been so incredibly powerful working for organisations that had 60,000 employees. You know, imagine having lifestyle interventions at the tip of your finger every day that helped you de-stress, helped you put a different lens on your health journey and the impact that your work has on you. Maybe people like me would make a different choice about where they spend their time. But also, I think if I had known all of the things I know about lifestyle, medicine and self-care if I had known that when I was in the corporate world, I would have fared a lot better.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:33:28] Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah. But I think this is where there is a confluence of interest between good health, not only making sense but literally making dollars. I mean, I know Deloittes just published a report the end of last year estimating that for every dollar a company spends on their the well-being of their staff, they get a 5.60 return. And I think that’s probably conservative.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:33:54] Yeah. And that is correct. And what I love about the beginning of these things, to actually be in the public domain is that to an extent our medical system through Medicare is about… We provide services that we can claim on Medicare. And that is a very short… And coaches aren’t on that obviously we’re trying to get health coaches recognised for the NDIS. We’re working on that so that health coaches can actually support people on the NDIS with self-care and increasing their own reliance on lifestyle type, not medicine, but like lifestyle issues, like not smoking so much, not drinking so much, etc… And the, you know, that’s the… That’s where the game is going. But when we talk about Medicare and the way I’ve been asked this question many times, Yeah, but it’s not refunded. And when we are advocating at a government level, we are saying, yes, but you’re looking at the short-term cost. Whereas preventative medicine is a long-term financial benefit. So you’re actually looking at the beneficial cost into the future of less strain on the medical resources that we have. And I mean, that also goes for if nurses, health coaches and feel like they’re achieving more, if doctors feel like they’re achieving more because their patients are fully supported beyond the 15-minute consultation, then you are actually saving money. You are actually saving money because people will want to stay in the system instead of becoming disillusioned and leaving. And because I mean Ron, you know, every time you’ve got to train somebody from the beginning, that’s an enormous cost for them to stay in the system for maybe 5 or 6 years and then leave.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:36:01] Yes. Now, I mean, the cost and the effort that goes into training a doctor and a nurse. And for those burnout rates as they are, my goodness, just… Even not… Even putting public health aside just for a moment, the cost-benefit analysis of supporting the doctors and nurses in this journey is a no-brainer in itself.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:36:26] Hmm. Correct. I mean, it’s kind of like, you know, I don’t know what $250,000 machine and you just let it run on itself with no maintenance and no upkeep. Exactly. It’s like, yeah, you know, how does that make financial sense? Not at all.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:36:48] No. Now, now, you know, you’ve mentioned HCANZAr a few times. HCANZA. Tell us about HCANZA and its role.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:37:00] So HCANZA is the… I’m a co-founder, so I’ll declare that conflict of interest. So you’re only going to hear good things from me. HCANZA is an organisation that started three and a half years ago because health coach, the title health coach, is not a protected term in Australia, nor is nutritionists, nor is naturopathy. And there are many people out there who call themselves health coaches who have had very, very little training. So part of the formation of HCANZA was about ensuring consistency with standards internationally of what health coaches are required to do and be. It’s a micro-credential, but also underscoring safety forward so that doctors would use health coaches, but also for the health consumer so that if somebody is a member of HCANZA, they know they are getting a properly qualified health coach as opposed to somebody who might have done a weekend course with a self-proclaimed guru who found that that for their autoimmune disease, this protocol worked for them in everyone. Then they teach people how to teach other people how to do this. No, that’s not in the best interest of the industry in terms of us being credentialed, working with integrity, working within a code of conduct and a proper scope of practice and really protecting health consumers. But another part of HCANZA was about creating community for health coaches and all industry associations do that. You know, that’s one of our main purposes is to actually gather in and embrace the community, help them to understand how to work better. We also liaise with employers and… That they have access to properly qualified coaches. And so it really is about community consistency, confidence in health coaches as an industry profession.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:39:16] And what is… What… I mean, you talked about a weekend course that some people might do and then become a health coach. But becoming a health coach is not an onerous thing. What is a good place to start? If someone was saying, you know what, I’m a little disillusioned with what I’m doing or I want to contribute more and I’d like to look into being a health coach. Well, what would be the minimum requirement that comes of it would, you know, accredited?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:39:42] So we would say go to our website because there are… There’s a list of approved programs and any program on our website has all of the minimum standards for requirements and it is a micro credential. So it’s in Australia, it’s well for HCANZA, it’s a minimum of 110 hours. But most importantly about that training is that it has people must do practicum. They must have synchronous training where they’re actually being supervised. They’re having to demonstrate that they’ve gained the skills and they’re being mentored. And so in that skill development, I mean, imagine a doctor who went out who had never sat in front of a patient, you know, to be a nutritionist. I had to do unbelievable number of clinic hours. So our standard requires that it actually requires practicum. Many health coaching courses, all people who call themselves life coaches, it’s an entirely online course. Self-paced. They’re not mental. There’s no demonstration. While they may demonstrate in an exam that they’ve understood the content. There’s no demonstration that they actually understand how to work with a client where the client is right. And that, as you know, Ron, that’s the hard part. He’s actually not being a technical expert, but actually being a good listener and really hearing where the client’s at. And so that’s what the HCANZA standard is all about. Now, that’s the equivalent of it’s actually a little bit more than the US standard, and the UK standard is even greater. It actually requires 600 hours. And but the American standard only requires 75 hours and we’re at 110. So and that’s the minimum. Most of our precautions actually have a lot more than that. A lot more than that, you know, So but the most important thing is that you’re actually you doing that practicum, you’re demonstrating that you have this… Those skills.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:42:03] Mm hmm. And I know that. Well, you know, your background is in lobbying as well. And so this would, you know, your role in HCANZA  I couldn’t think of a better person to lead HCANZA, quite frankly but that’s on the side. Now, what’s there been the response say from government? From AMA? I mean I would think the AMA, Australian Medical Association would be an important partner or opponent to this concept. The health departments, state and federal, would be an important partner or not. How are you being received in all… In those, you know, corridors of power?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:42:41] Yeah. Look, the, the, you know, we have some doctor’s organisations who are totally on board and that’s, you know, the Australasian Integrative Medicine Association, the Australasian Lifestyle and Society of Lifestyle Medicine ACNEM, the Australian of Australia College of Nutrition and Environmental Medicine. So they see health coaches as a natural partner in the type of practice that they’re promoting, which is all about holistic whole person, you know, treating the person, not just the disease. So plenty of interest there, plenty of recognition within RACGP and AMA of coaches. What are they mostly concerned about? The credentialing of coaches, consumer health, but the protection of consumer health. There are longer conversations within certain governments in within certain chronic disease types. They use a type of coaching but not… And that could be compliance coaching or it could be a systems coach who is really a coach navigator, who are really helping people look within the NDIS. They have some navigators who are really helping people understand well, from this department you can get that and from that department, you get that and from there over there you actually get a resource. So they’re really navigators, they’re not behaviour change experts. So at the federal level, you know, we are participating in all of the review that’s going on right now about that scope of practice review that I mentioned to you. And actually, you know, working together, there’s no point in HCANZA saying, Oh, well, your coach aren’t good enough. It’s actually about how can we actually get health coaching here and then develop the industry and develop the career paths for these coaches so that they become increasingly, you know, experienced in behaviour change. And so it’s really about a collaboration. And, but, you know, this is the thing between New Zealand and, and Australia. New Zealand, one government, but Australia, every state has their own idea. Every state health department has their own idea and the Federal government has another idea again. So come back to me in about three years. But you know, those conversations are definitely going on and industry, you know, doctors, industries, associations where we can see an alliance, we’re certainly working with those and with patient advocate groups, we’re working with those because they’re actually very powerful with federal and state governments.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:45:38] Hmm. And, you know, it’s interesting because so we talk a lot about holistic management on this program. And one of our gurus, Allan Savory, talks about a holistic context overlying every decision that’s made. So, you know, you have a basic principle or a mission that overlays every other decision that is made. And wouldn’t it be nice if the overriding holistic context is we want better health outcomes…


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:46:09] Correct, and I mean…


[00:46:11] What a noble idea. What a noble idea.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:46:13] But the… You know, the latest preventative health strategy coming out of the federal government actually mirrors the World Health Organisation, you know, better health outcomes for everyone and regardless of where you are in the socio-economic stratum. And so it’s not that, that thinking isn’t there. There’s just, you know, challenges in how we deliver that.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:46:40] But this is coming back to where we started, where I said there are two sides to the coin. One is the doctor and their expectation of preventive medicine, you know, kind of look, I’ve been talking about that for years with patients. They just won’t do it. And the other side of the coin is the patient who says, look, I’ve been giving it a try, but it just doesn’t happen. Now, if people listening to this were thinking, I want to get a health coach. Be they a practitioner or a… Or patient slash client. Where would they go?


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:47:17] Well, of course, they can go to our website. Because we have search for a coach. And we’ve got about 250 properly qualified health coaches who are listed on that website and they can search for a coach in their region, in their city, wherever. We have a jobs board free of charge. People can, you know, doctors who are looking for a health coach in their clinics they can advertise for free that they have a position and that once that job that’s actually listed on our jobs board. All coaches are notified of that and then the relationship is directly with the doctor so we don’t become a middleman in that went really just to the platform and… I mean, some people might go, Well, I actually would like to have some health coaching skills myself because I’m a practitioner I can see how that just makes so much sense.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:48:17] Gosh, yes.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:48:18] And they can go to our website and they can find an approved program provider and make inquiries because some health practitioners actually would only have to do the gap training. They’d only have to do the coach training aspect of it, not the health training. So the basic health training assumes that you don’t have a health background and you don’t know what a medical red flag is. So anyone coming from a health professional background actually can do that training and just do the coaching aspect of it. So we’re… We kind of hope that, you know, by going to our website, you’ll be able to see all the different varieties of how you can become involved in this incredibly, you know, industry that is just growing at such an incredible rate as, look, Covid, you know, people needed health coaches. Health coaches can be on a digital platform. You don’t have to be meeting in person. And the growth Ron, has just been incredible. But of course, we still get the questions what is a health coach? And because it’s confusing out there. And one of the things I’m lobbying government for is that we actually decide on a definition of that and let’s go so that people know how to become a part of this movement. You know, part of this preventative strategy that we’re so desperately needing.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:49:46] We are. Well, that’s a great note to finish on. And I want to thank you for not only all of the amazing work that you are doing in this very exciting and much, much-needed area. But just generally for joining us today and sharing all of that knowledge with us.


Linda Funnell-Milner [00:50:02] Thanks so much, Ron. I really love looking at your podcasts and so happy to be one of them. Yeah, thanks very much.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:50:13] When we consider the stakeholders involved in health care, it’s perhaps amazing that there should be any resistance to this more patient-centred or client-centred approach to health care. What a novel idea. A health system focussed on health. A health system that actually does much more than just manage chronic diseases, preventable chronic diseases, both physical and mental that actually focuses on health care. It’s like picking a team and sending them out to play a competition and expect them to do well. An integral part of that team’s performance is a coach and not just a one-off thing. A coach is there tapping the hoop along, bringing things together and keeping the focus, laser focussed on outcomes and all about accountability as well. So there is a win win win here, of course, a win for the individual, for the patient, for the client, a win for the medical practitioner, which as I’ve observed in past episodes and mentioned again here, burnout rates for medical practitioners and nurses are extraordinarily high. So this is a collaborative effort to relieve stress and improve outcomes and reduce burnout. It’s also a huge win for health coaches. And in my… As I said at conference, so many… Such a diverse area of drawing from a diverse background of law, finance, marketing, physiotherapy, chiropractors, doctors, specialists, nurses, all sorts of people take on this health coaching career and it is a wonderfully satisfying thing to be doing health care in general because as I’ve said, even after 45 years of being in health care, the more you learn about health, the more you realise there is to learn. And that’s exciting. That’s something that keeps you interested, engaged and stimulated throughout your life.


Dr Ron Ehrlich [00:52:17] And I think that’s a pretty worthwhile thing to do in your life and in your career. So a win for the system, a win for the practitioners, a win for the patient, a win for the coach. There’s a fifth player here, unfortunately, or not, unfortunately. The fifth stakeholder in the health care system is the industries that support it, like the pharmaceutical industry and of course, the influence of the pharmaceutical industry on all levels of health care is, I believe, a very big factor of why we find ourselves in such a dire position in our health. There is a conflict of interest. I think this is quite paradoxical to people hearing it the first time, but there is actually a conflict of interest in health care. Good health makes sense, but it doesn’t make dollars. And as I’ve said there are huge industries that support illness and… but good health does actually make a lot of sense. And out in the workplace and out in the world, a tremendous return on investment, both financially, socially, psychologically, individually and collectively. We’ll have links to That’s You can either if you’re a health professional, start a conversation with a health coach to work collaboratively together. If you’re a client or a patient and you want to find somebody that’s registered and accredited, then that is another website for you. Or if you are looking to change your career or to add this to your career, then it’s a wonderful thing to do. So for Hope this finds you well until next time. This is Dr Ron Ehrlich. Be well.


This podcast provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The content is not intended and should not be construed as medical advice or as a substitute for care by a qualified medical practitioner. If you or any other person has a medical concern, he or she should consult with an appropriately qualified medical practitioner. Guests who speak in this podcast express their own opinions, experiences and conclusions