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Poor diet in shift workers: is health and wellbeing coaching a possible intervention?

Posted by stephenpalmer on 29 Dec 2011 at 11:56 GMT

This editorial visits an important issue and raises important questions.

We have known for many years that shift working can have negative health consequences. The article focuses on one aspect that may be open to intervention ie diet and nutrition. Of course, poor diet is clearly a personal choice by the employee and employers (and Governments) could decide that it is not their responsibility. However, availability of suitable healthier foods in the workplace for employees could easily come under the remit of the employer and legislation. If the research has found that an increase in employee poor diet choice is associated with shift work then the Editors are probably correct in their logic ie it is 'A New Occupational Health Hazard', now it has been recognised.

But what do employers do to tackle this hazard? As implied in the editorial, health promotion and education are not particularly effective when encouraging a person to change their health-related behaviours. Yes, diet and nutrition change are difficult nuts to crack and are prone to relapse even if success was previously achieved.

Often health promotion and education does not empower the individual and is seen as “patronising". People literally switch off. Yet health and wellbeing coaching may be a possible intervention that helps to facilitate the person to achieve 'their' health-related goals as it avoids taking the traditional directive health education approach [1]. This would mean that the employer would go beyond the more usual tick-box approach of just inviting employees to attend a lecture on nutrition in their (unpaid) lunch break! Health and wellbeing coaching for employees who are encountering difficulties in improving their workplace health-related behaviours may be one possible intervention that will be more effective than just providing health-related information.


1. Palmer, S (2004) Health Coaching: a Developing Field within Health Education. Health Education Journal June, 63: 189-191, doi:10.1177/001789690406300208

Competing interests declared: Currently supervising doctorate students undertaking research into health and wellbeing coaching at the Coaching Psychology Unit, City University London, UK.