Just a few weeks ago, many people resolved to lose weight, quit smoking, exercise more, and a variety of other health-related life improvements. Historically, many New Year resolutions have fallen apart by the end of January each year creating the need to re-resolve the next year.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ focus on whole health helps veterans look beyond resolutions like losing weight and exercising more to see their health holistically. The VA Whole Health Program starts with one question: What matters to you?
“The Whole Health Program facilitates a veteran’s overall health by looking at health through the eight areas of the Circle of Health,” said Jena Roark, a whole health coach at the VA Illiana medical center in Danville. “Veterans are led through each area of the circle to help them decide what matters to them.”
The areas of the Circle of Heath are:
- Moving the body – Energy and Flexibility
- Surroundings – Physical and Emotional
- Personal Development – Personal Life and Work Life
- Food and Drink – Nourishing and Fueling
- Recharge – Sleep and Refresh
- Family, Friends, and Co-workers – Relationships
- Spirit and Soul – Growth and Connecting
- Power of the Mind – Relaxing and Healing
Once a veteran determines what matters to them for their own health, VA Whole Health coaches help guide the veteran to their goals through group sessions or one-on-one coaching. The six-week program is called Taking Charge of My Life and Health, or TCMLH. There are a variety of TCMLH courses, including courses specifically for women veterans.
“In health care we used to focus on what is the matter with the veteran. Now our focus on what matters to the veteran makes us partners in the mission, like battle buddies, which is something that veterans can relate to,” said Ryan Lane, a national board certified health and wellness coach. “We want veterans to know that we are here to help them accomplish their personal health mission.”
While veterans can get integrative health services like acupuncture, chiropractic care, and massage therapy on their own, VA Whole Health coaches can help guide veterans to the best options to accomplish the mission and reach their health goals.
“We want to move veterans away from thinking that there is a pill for every ill. There are many treatment and care options available to them,” said Roark.
This approach has proven to be effective in helping veterans in a variety of ways. According to VA, opioid use among veterans who use the comprehensive Whole Health Program decreased 38% compared with an 11% decrease among veterans who do not use Whole Health services in 2019.
“We have built a health care system that does very well at treating many diseases but does not focus enough on creating and supporting health and well-being. The Whole Health approach changes that,” said, Dr. Staci Williams, executive director of the VA Illiana Health Care System. “Whole Health supports a health system rather than a disease care system. This expands the definition of health care to a system that empowers and equips people to take charge of their health and well-being.”
VA Illiana offers sessions with coaches in-person, virtually through VA Video Connect, and by phone. Veterans can call (217) 554-4884 to get started or visit https://www.va.gov/wholehealth/ to learn more.