Telephone-delivered health behaviour change support for people with a mental health condition: the coaches' perspective

BMC Health Serv Res. 2021 Oct 21;21(1):1130. doi: 10.1186/s12913-021-07126-4.


Background: People with a mental health condition experience a greater prevalence of chronic disease and reduced life expectancy compared to the general population. Modifiable health risk behaviours, such as physical inactivity and poor nutrition are major contributing factors. Population-level health coaching delivering behavioural change support via telephone for healthy eating, physical activity, and weight management is an opportunity utilised by this group to support improvement in healthy lifestyle behaviours. Health coaches offer a valuable perspective into the provision of services to this high-risk group. This study aims to qualitatively explore coaches' experiences in providing support to these participants, consider factors which may contribute to engagement and outcomes; and potentially inform future service improvement.

Method: A qualitative study design was employed involving semi-structured telephone interviews with six coaches employed in a telephone-based behaviour change support service in New South Wales, Australia, between April and July 2019. Interview data was analysed using an inductive thematic analysis.

Results: Coaches believed that the service was of benefit to people with a mental health condition, however making changes to health risk behaviours was potentially more difficult for this group of service users. Coaches indicated that in supporting this group there was a greater focus on building confidence and readiness to change. They noted that improvement in mental health as a result of physical health changes was an additional 'measure of success' of particular relevance. Coaches expressed a desire to receive more mental health training to better deliver coaching to participants with a mental health condition. Program variables such as limited call length were posed as possible barriers to care.

Conclusion: Further training and additional support for coaches, in additon to considering variations to aspects of service delivery may assist in improving engagement and outcomes for participants with mental health conditions. Examining mental health consumers' experiences when engaging with telephone coaching services would be an important area to address in further research.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Health care quality; Health coaching; Mental health; Physical activity; Preventive health services; Qualitative research; Weight management.

MeSH terms

  • Exercise
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders* / therapy
  • Mental Health*
  • Telephone