Lifestyle coaches as a central professional in the health care network? Dynamic changes over time using a network analysis

C. E. van Rinsum*, S. M. P. L. Gerards, G. J. M. Rutten, L. A. M. van de Goor, S. P. J. Kremers, L. Mercken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Overweight and obesity are problems that are increasing globally in both children as well as adults, and may be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle. Lifestyle coaches counsel overweight and obese children (and their parents) as well as adults in initiating and maintaining healthier lifestyle behaviours. It is currently unclear whether this novel professional in the Dutch health care system functions as a linchpin in networks that evolve around lifestyle-related health problems. The aim of the present study is to investigate the formation and development of networks of lifestyle coaches and their positions within these networks.

In this longitudinal study, key professionals and professionals within relevant organisations in the Coaching on Lifestyle (CooL) care networks were asked to fill in three online questionnaires. Respondents were asked to indicate whether they collaborated with each of the specified professionals in the context of CooL. The overall network structures and the central role of the lifestyle coaches were examined by using network analysis.

The results showed that the networks in three out of four regions were relatively centralised, but that none of the networks were dense, and that the professionals seemed to collaborate less with others over time. Half of the lifestyle coaches had a high number of collaborations and a central position within their networks, which also increased over time. In half of the regions, the lifestyle coaches had increased their role as consultants, while their role as gatekeeper and liaison decreased over time. In most regions, the sector of lifestyle coaches had a central position in their networks in just one measurement. Other central sectors were the local sports organisation, public health services, youth health care and the municipal government.

Overall, we cannot conclude that more central and denser networks were formed during the study period. In addition, the lifestyle coaches were not often positioned as a central sector within these networks. Entrepreneurial, network and brokering competences are required for lifestyle coaches to build up denser networks.

Trial registration: NTR6208; date registered: 13–01-2017; retrospectively registered; Netherlands Trial Register.
Original languageEnglish
Article number247
Number of pages13
JournalBMC Health Services Research
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • Combined lifestyle intervention
  • Dynamic changes over time
  • Health care professionals
  • Lifestyle coaching
  • Network analysis
  • Obesity
  • Overweight


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