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Whole Health Library

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Whole Health includes both delivering excellent health care and designing health care systems with a new focus. We shift the mindset from the disease or other problem at hand to the reasons we want our health in the first place, asking “What really matters to you?” instead of “What’s the matter with you?”

Whole Health is about our reasons for being alive.
It’s not only about making our lives longer, but also about making them fuller, richer, and more joyful.

How is Whole Health Different?

A father and daughter laughing together.We believe that the key to health and well-being and first step toward Whole Health and more personalized, proactive, and patient driven care begins with a single question:

What matters most to you in your life?

Emphasizing what matters—or why we want our health in the first place—puts the person before the disease or illness, and invites patients to be active participants in their health care, rather than passively relying on clinicians or medications to “fix” the problem.

“Whole Health is not just a new “program,” but rather a transformation in how we approach helping Veterans and their families. And part of this cultural change requires a fundamental shift in how we, each and every employee, addresses our own well-being. Exploring this new approach starts with you.”

Ben Kligler, MD, MPH, Executive Director for the Office of Patient Centered Care and Cultural Transformation, Veterans Health Administration

Collaborative and Inclusive

Whole Health weaves together the best aspects of healing through an “and” approach. We understand that curing disease is important, and so is preventing it. We also know that:

  • Having a supportive professional team guide your care is important, and it is important for you to be the captain of your team.
  • Physical health and well-being are essential, and we are more than the sum of our body parts; our mental, emotional, social, and spiritual health influence our physical health, and vice versa.
  • Medications and surgical procedures are important, and there is room for other approaches to healing.
  • Whole Health is about how we function as individuals, and how we connect with other individuals, our communities, our cultures, and our planet.
  • Knowing the evidence is important, and so is applying what you know about each individual’s story.

As a clinician, you do not simply tell people what to do; you help them explore their mission, aspiration, and purpose. You help them create Personal Health Plans that matter to them.


“Whole Health has the potential to transform not only the VA but all of American health care from a system designed strictly to prevent and fight disease to one designed to create and sustain health and well-being.” —Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH, National Director of Integrative Health Coordinating Center and Director of Research and Education in the Veteran Health Administration Office of Patient-Centered Care & Cultural Transformation

The Veterans Health Administration is actively advancing Whole Health in an effort to transform health care and improve the lives of Veterans and the members of their health care teams, including family and friends. Practicing with Whole Health as a clinician means being part of a nationally-supported, grassroots movement intended to bring about system-wide transformation. It also means honoring all the reasons you chose a career in health care in the first place.

Who is Whole Health For?

Whole Health is for everyone, because everyone has health care needs. Everyone needs support as they meet the challenges of their lives. This includes caregivers, too. Those who devote their time to serving others also must take time to nurture themselves.

Who is involved?

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Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation

Part of the Veteran’s Health Administration that provides Whole Health resources to Veterans and works to transform the VA’s health care system to achieve more personalized, proactive and patient-driven care.

How Did Whole Health Begin?

Elements of Whole Health are found throughout history in healing traditions around the world, but Whole Health in the VA officially had its start in 2011, with the creation of the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation. Under the leadership of Executive Director, Dr. Tracy Gaudet, the Circle of Health was created, along with an array of clinician and patient educational materials. Whole Health is built on several core principles, but how it looks in practice has evolved over time, as different clinicians and leaders in the VA have tailored Whole Health Care to the needs of their teams and facilities.

Whole Health in Action

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” —Harriet Tubman

Key Elements of a Whole Health System

Setting an Example

Education is essential to transformation. Nearly 70 VA medical centers have hosted at least one Whole Health course. Since 2016, the VA has selected multiple design sites to pilot Whole Health prototype projects nationwide. Some of these have become flagship sites (described below). Many have developed their own promotional materials based on the curriculum, including the following examples:

Have you created Whole Health materials of your own? Send us a copy so we can share with others under the “Resources” tab on this website.

Flagship Sites

In 2018, the VA selected 18 medical facilities to serve as flagship sites, charged with modeling a Whole Health System. Each site is learning how to foster healing relationships that empower, equip, and treat Veterans so they can achieve optimal health and well-being. Find out which facilities are flagship sites by downloading the Passport to Whole Health.Do you want to know how to implement Whole Health in your facility? Refer to the Key Elements of the Whole Health System featured on the left and download a copy of the Flagship Whole Health Implementation Guide.