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Whole Health

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Medical Journal Features VA Whole Health Transform

servicemember in yoga pose

Many Veterans practice yoga to find a more balanced and peaceful state of mind and body. VA's Whole Health approach helps Veterans identify integrative health approaches such as yoga as part of their personal health plans.

Monday, April 1, 2019

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is gaining recognition for its reimagined and redesigned approach to health care. A March special issue of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (JACM) takes a closer look at VA’s Whole Health approach and the challenges and successes that come with this transformation.

The JACM issue Multimodal Approaches in Integrative Health: Whole Persons, Whole Practices, Whole Systems examines how VA is incrementally, but dramatically, changing its sizeable health care system and the way it cares for millions of Veterans annually. More than just illness, Whole Health considers the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual, and environmental influences in Veterans’ lives. This is particularly important when Veterans are dealing with complex issues such as pain and the invisible wounds of war.

Tracy Gaudet, MD, the founding director of the VA's Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, also led the integrative health initiatives at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Duke University Medical School before coming to VA in 2011. In the special JACM issue, she authored "Whole Health in the Whole System of the Veterans Administration: How Will We Know We Have Reached This Future State?" in collaboration with the director of the VA's Integrative Health Coordinating Center, Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH. The piece describes the Whole Health model practiced by health care professionals and Veterans in 18 pilot facilities across the country as they move from "find it, fix it" disease care to one guided by the individual needs of the Veteran. The authors also look at the kinds of measurements needed to assess success in achieving VA’s Whole Health goals.

Dr. Gaudet and Dr. Kligler’s commentary is a companion piece to "What Should Health Care Systems Consider When Implementing Complementary and Integrative Health: Lessons from Veterans Health Administration." Authored by an eight-person team led by Stephanie Taylor, Ph.D., Greater Los Angeles VA Medical Center, the paper includes research drawn from nearly 150 in-person interviews at eight VA medical centers. It explores VA’s commitment to reducing the reliance on opioids using a new chronic pain model, the importance of evidence-based complementary and integrative health approaches, and the challenges to implementing Whole Health.

Joining these VA submissions are papers on whole person-oriented integrative pain programs from the University of California San Francisco; Oregon Medicaid; University of Vanderbilt; University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and Harvard Medical School.

"Leaders of private-not-for-profit hospitals and major delivery organizations in the medical industry have a great deal to learn from VA's Whole Health model and from these other budding whole person pain treatment strategies," JACM Editor-in-Chief John Weeks says. "The desired transformation from volume to value means engaging new challenges and employing new research questions such as Gaudet, Kligler, their VA colleagues, and these other integrative health researchers are exploring."

JACM is a peer-reviewed publication from Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers and is dedicated to paradigm, practice, and policy advancing integrative health.


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