Emerging Retail Trend:  Hiring of Health Coaches and Homeopaths

Emerging Retail Trend: Hiring of Health Coaches and Homeopaths

December 9, 2015

By RDBA Executive Director Annette Maggi, MS, RDN, LD, FAND

As retailers are now reaping the benefits of health and wellness programs, they are seeking new ways to expand the programs. An ongoing challenge with the tight margins in retail is offering programs that attract new shoppers and increase trip frequency and basket size while maintaining a positive return-on-investment.  

An emerging trend in this space is consideration by retailers to hire health coaches or homeopathy practitioners. According to the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS), an estimated 5 million adults and 1 million children used homeopathy in the previous year, and retailers can view this area of health care as a way to bring these shoppers to their stores seeking alternative remedies. The concept of the health coaches is likely compelling to retail as the focus is on helping the consumer set goals and providing guidance in diet, exercise and wellness.  

So what do retail dietitians do if their retailer heads down a path of hiring one of these alternative health care providers? Here are some recommendations:

  1. Get involved in the conversation. Find out who is leading the charge on this effort and who the decision makers are, and ask a lot of questions. How far down the path is the group on the decision? What research has been done on your shoppers to indicate they would use or are interested in these services?  Is this a pilot test or a full roll out? What is the defined role of this new position? Where will they report? What budget is this being pulled from? How does this affect existing healthy living programs at your retailer?
  2. Do your research. There is much data available on the lack of effectiveness of homeopathic remedies. Additionally, this area is regulated by the FDA. “Health coach” is a lose term, and classes to become a life coach can be as short as six weeks. Pull this information together into a business-friendly presentation or short white paper for those involved in the decision making. Frame it through the lens of ensuring the company is protected and the importance of not compromising existing nutrition and pharmacy programs that have proven to be effective.  
  3. Define the scope of practice. Many RDs and pharmacists have worked with their retailers to help leadership understand the scope of practice differences between these roles. With your background, it’s essential to frame up this same conversation regarding potential hires of homeopathy practitioners and/or health coaches. Engage your pharmacy partners in this effort as well as colleagues in regulatory or legal. Homeopathy practice requires licensure in many states, and if health coaches cross certain scope of practice lines, there can be consequences that impact your retailer. It may also be worthwhile during this time to re-iterate why credentialed health professionals are important leaders and core members of health and wellness programs.
  4. Lead an integrated health & wellness approach. If you’re retailer’s mind is set to hire alternative care providers, suggest they become part of your team. This allows you to best leverage the varying skills and scopes of practice of each provider into an integrated health offering for your retailer. It can also prevent future battles about scope of practice. 
  5. Monitor and measure. Retail RDs are well-versed in discussion around return-on-investment and the importance of showing a positive ROI for their programs and services. The same standard should be upheld for alternative health providers hired into your retailer. If your retailer is pilot testing a program, make yourself available to help monitor and measure the effectiveness of all healthy living programs your company provides.