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Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide. Four chronic NCDs, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory disease, and diabetes are responsible for more than 80% of NCD-related deaths. Unhealthy behaviors, such as physical inactivity, smoking, poor nutrition, and excessive alcohol consumption are significant causes of chronic NCDs. However, even when faced with potentially debilitating effects associated with chronic NCDs, it is difficult for individuals to change their behaviors and adopt more healthful practices, such as being physically active, refraining from smoking, eating a healthful diet, and refraining from excess alcohol intake. Sometimes barriers seem insurmountable, and affected individuals need guidance. A potential resource that can help individuals overcome personal barriers and successfully improve their health behaviors is the health care provider. However, while health care providers are being tasked to address patients’ health behaviors, they often feel ill-equipped to assist their patients to engage in meaningful, sustainable, health behavior change. Promising approaches to providing efficient and effective support for patients’ behavior change revolve around provider-patient communication. Health coaching, for instance, is a process whereby health care providers follow a standardized communication approach in working with patients that integrates health behavior change theories such as the Transtheoretical Model and Self Determination Theory, utilizes conversational tools such as motivational interviewing, and incorporates evidence-based strategies to foster health behavior change. In so doing, the provider’s role shifts from that of an expert to that of a partner, which results in improved satisfaction in the provider-patient relationship for both the provider and the patient, and improved health outcomes for the patient. Communication strategies that build provider-patient partnerships increase patient autonomy and self-efficacy, thereby enabling providers to better support their patients in adopting sustainable behavior change and addressing the burden caused by NCDs.
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