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Whole Health in the VA

David Greaves, PhD

The VA Healthcare System has transformed the way healthcare is delivered to Veterans, and it’s called Whole Health. If you think about a typical appointment with your health care provider, it usually involves a meeting where the doctor asks, “tell me what’s the matter with you today?” The provider then proceeds to make treatment recommendations and the encounter is over. However, the idea behind Whole Health is different. When you sit down with your doctor, the question he or she asks is “what matters the most to you today?”

The Whole Health approach is designed to consider what is important to the Veteran, not merely what the provider thinks is most important. Responsibility for success is shared between provider and Veteran. They partner together to create a personal health plan that will address all aspects of a person’s life - in other words, helps the Veteran achieve Whole Health.

The Whole Health approach considers how the Veteran defines wellness, and supports the Veteran’s goals as they relate to physical wellness, desired life activities, emotional well-being, relationships, diet, exercise level, and so forth. We now realize that being healthy and well is much more than making the symptoms go away.

Whole Health also considers new and complimentary methods of treatment, including such things as Yoga, Tai-Chi, chiropractic care, acupuncture, or other modalities that Veterans want to use in their care. These types of care are more and more available to Veterans within the VA system.

The principles of Whole Health are all about quality of life. People with MS know that, despite their own best efforts and the best efforts of experienced providers, the disease can impact their lives in significant ways. Management of current MS symptoms can be interrupted with unexpected relapses, lasting for short or long periods of time, which can be discouraging. Whole Health teaches us that there are many ways to feel well, and it’s important to remember all the options available; everything from social support to meditation to learning a new hobby. Wellness and health come from many sources.

It starts with you in the middle, being mindful of what you need and what is important to you. The eight light green circles represent ways you can improve your wellness, from exercise and diet to family support, meditation, or even your surroundings. Please consider the many resources you have to feel good!

If you would like to learn more about Whole Health, there are many online resources. Check out the VA Whole Health website.

Whole Health Wheel