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Whole Health: It Starts with Me

Whole health is an approach to healthcare that empowers and enables you to take charge of your health and well-being and live your life to the fullest. Whole health starts with you. It is fueled by the power of knowing yourself and what will really work for you in your life. Only you have these insights, this knowledge.  

This information was gathered to help you as you make choices to support your health. As you learn more, you will have even more power to take care of yourself. Best wishes!

Circular graphic showing prevention and treatment methods of taking care of your whole health.

What is whole health?

Whole health recognizes you as a whole person. Whole health goes beyond your illnesses, injuries, or disabilities. It focuses on health and well-being, along with your medical care. It includes self-care and complementary therapies such as acupuncture, massage, and yoga. In whole health care, you are a more active partner with your healthcare team.

Why is the VA changing the way healthcare is provided?

The core mission of Veterans Health Administration is to “Honor America’s Veterans by providing exceptional healthcare that improves their health and well-being.” Exceptional care is different than it used to be. It now includes:

  • Getting to know you better

  • Learning what matters most to you

  • Focusing on your goals for your life and health

  • Helping you with self-care

How is whole health different?

Healthcare usually focuses on preventive care, lowering risk, and illness and disease. Are your cancer screenings and flu shot up-to-date? Do you feel sick or are you injured? Do you smoke or is your weight healthy? What medicines do you take and how are your test results? These things are still important. And whole health is more than that. It focuses on what is important to you in your life and how you want to live your life. It includes self-care and things you can do to increase healing and improve your health and well-being. You and your healthcare team work together to help you do what you want to do. Together, you discuss what you are doing well and what type of support from others may help you be healthy.

What is meant by self-care? I don’t have a medical background.

Research shows that the most important ingredient in being healthy is how you take care of yourself, and you don’t need a medical background to do that. Medical care is important, but how you live your life between medical appointments makes the most difference. Self-care is not something you have to figure out on your own. In whole health care, you look at all areas of your life. You may want to start with just 1 or 2 areas. The areas of self-care include: 

  • Working your body. Exercise and movement for energy, flexibility, and strength.

  • Surroundings. How things around you affect your body and emotions.

  • Personal development. Learning and growing throughout your lifetime.

  • Food and drink. Nourishing your body.

  • Recharge. Sleep, rest, and relaxation.

  • Family, friends, and coworkers. Your relationships with others.

  • Spirit and soul. A sense of connection, purpose, and meaning. 

  • Power of the mind. Tapping into your ability to heal and cope.

Will I continue to see my primary healthcare provider?

Yes. If you receive your healthcare from the VA, you will continue to see your healthcare provider and health care team of nurses, social workers, dietitians, chaplains, pharmacists, and mental health professionals. You may notice them asking about what matters to you in your life so they can help you with your life goals. You may also receive more self-care support. You may be referred to complementary services like health coaching, yoga, acupuncture, and massage therapy, if they are available in your VA medical center or community.

How will whole health help me?

Military missions are each unique. Not all maneuvers are handled in the same way. Likewise, there is no one way to help all people be their healthiest. Each person is unique. In a whole health approach, healthcare teams get to know each person better and make sure that care is geared toward each person’s needs and goals. This personalized care is an important part of whole health.

Is there a downside to whole healthcare compared to the type of care I have received in the past?

There is no downside to whole health compared with the way you received care in the past. Some questions may be new for you. You can choose what you share and how detailed your answers will be. It is likely that you will be very happy with whole healthcare, because your healthcare team will focus on you as an individual. People are more likely to follow a plan that they helped create and that is based on their own life.  

What can I do if I feel unsure about the whole health approach?

If you are uncertain or uncomfortable at any time with a whole health approach, talk with someone on your healthcare team. Ask questions, share your concerns, and get more information. Let your healthcare team know what would be helpful to you.

How do I get started with whole health?

  1. Help your healthcare team get to know you better. Tell them what really matters to you in your life: what makes you happy, and why you want to be healthy.

  2. Talk with your healthcare team about your self-care. In what areas are you doing well? What are your natural strengths? What areas are challenging for you? Are there 1 or 2 areas that you would like to focus? 

  3. Work with your healthcare team on a plan for your health. You are the expert on yourself. You know what you can or can’t do, how you feel, how you want to live your life, and what you want to accomplish. Your healthcare team can help you think about improving your health in ways that work for you. They can offer suggestions to improve your self-care. They can recommend strategies that fit your interests and lifestyle, and the resources available in your area. They can help you set goals and identify steps along the way to reach those goals. Making changes in even one area can improve your health. Your team will support you as you work toward your goals and help you find other experts to help, if needed. They will also work with you to revise your plan over time as you accomplish goals or need to change them.

When can I start whole health?

You don’t need to wait to get started. You can complete a personal health inventory to explore what matters to you and what you want your health for. You can talk to a friend, family member, health coach, spiritual leader, or someone on your healthcare team about areas you want to work on. Your healthcare team is ready to start the whole health process with you now or at your next appointment. Share your interest in whole health with someone on your healthcare team today.

The information in this health sheet is general. Please work with your healthcare team to use the information in the best way possible to promote your health and happiness.

To learn more about whole health and access handouts, please click here.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 12/1/2017
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