Catawba Valley Healthcare is an independent, comprehensive, non-profit healthcare organization that offers a wide range of whole-person healthcare and services that integrate physical and mental health.

Whole Person Care is an integrated approach to healthcare that recognizes the interconnectedness of physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being. This approach:

  • Treats the whole person, not just individual organs, symptoms, or body systems
  • Considers multiple factors that promote health or contribute to disease, including one’s biology, genetics, health habits, social environment, and an individual’s unique circumstances and needs
  • Empowers individuals, families, communities, and entire populations to improve health in an interconnected way, addressing biological, behavioral, social, and environmental factors

Instead of only treating a specific disease or symptoms, Whole Person Care focuses on restoring health throughout the entire body by acknowledging how different bodily systems impact each other. Preventing disease, promoting resilience, and managing chronic illnesses are all examined to promote long-term solutions rather than short-term remedies.

Why is Whole Person Health important?

Whole Person Health is essential because it recognizes that health is much broader than just what is presented by an individual’s symptoms. Rather than trying to address and fix a symptom(s), Whole Person Health looks “upstream” to figure out what is causing, or contributing to, symptoms so that they can be managed as well as possible.

There are many factors that we have little control over that contribute to health or disease, including one’s genetics and biology. However, health behaviors, such as diet, sedentary vs. active lifestyle, stress, and sleep can all play a critical role in health outcomes. As do patients’ social variables – the circumstances in which people are born, grow, live, work, and age. Proper self-care, healthy lifestyle choices, and behavioral interventions all contribute to optimizing one’s health, even in the face of a chronic illness.

For example, gut issues (nausea, diarrhea, constipation, cramps, etc.) can be symptoms of larger issues like anxiety, hormonal imbalance, food sensitivities, or a virus. Whole-person health looks at the totality of symptom presentation. A skilled Whole-person health provider does not just prescribe a patient an anti-nausea medication or stool softener but rather evaluates what might be needed to address the underlying conditions.

Therefore, understanding the physical, emotional, and environmental conditions in which a person has lived, optimizing healthy behaviors, and managing stress can not only prevent multiple diseases from developing but can also help restore a patient’s health and possibly stop the progression of a disease.

 Benefits of the Whole Person Care Model

  1. Whole Person Approach: This approach treats individuals as a whole being, not just a collection of symptoms. It promotes preventive measures, early intervention, and long-term health management.
  2. Improved Outcomes: By addressing all dimensions of health, Whole Person Care leads to better outcomes. Patients experience enhanced quality of life, reduced hospitalizations, and improved overall health.
  3. Patient-Centered Care: Whole Person Care involves active patient participation. It considers patients’ preferences, values, and goals, fostering a collaborative relationship between a healthcare provider and their patients.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: Preventive care and early intervention reduce healthcare costs in the long run. Whole Person Care can reduce expensive treatments.

What is the Whole Person Approach in Healthcare?

Furthermore, the Whole Person Approach emphasizes that health is not just the absence of illness but a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being. By adopting this holistic approach that acknowledges lifestyle, environment, genetics and social determinants, healthcare providers can offer more comprehensive and personalized care.

What is the Whole Person Approach in Healthcare

The Dimensions of Whole Person Healthcare

  1. Physical Health: This area encompasses physical fitness, nutrition, and disease prevention. Regular exercise, balanced diets, and preventive screenings contribute to overall physical well-being.
  2. Mental/Brain Health: Brain health is crucial to overall health. Addressing stress, anxiety, depression, and other serious mental health conditions is critical to maintaining overall health. Mental health therapies, counseling, and mindfulness practices play a significant role in improving and maintaining strong brain health.
  3. Emotional Well-being: Emotional health involves understanding and managing one’s emotions effectively. This includes coping mechanisms for stress, resiliency during hard times, and self-awareness. Emotional support and empathy from others are vital components of Whole Person Care.
  4. Social Health: Social connections, community involvement, and support networks impact health. Loneliness and isolation can lead to adverse health outcomes. Whole Person Care considers social determinants and encourages social engagement.

Whole Person Health and Brain Health

Many people who are diagnosed with Brain Health / Mental Health conditions (Depression, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, etc.) struggle with physical health complications related to the specific diagnosis and the medications used to treat them. 

Some anit-psychotic medications that are critical to managing serious brain health conditions can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. The opposite can be true as well; physical health medications can contribute to decreased effectiveness of brain health medications or an increase in brain health symptoms. Understanding this interconnectedness allows a person’s diagnoses to be treated together. Doing so leads to better overall care, increased effectiveness of medications, increase in overall lifespan, and less relapses in health.

Whole Person Health and Social Factors

Social factors such as one’s living environment, interpersonal relationships, employment, financial situation, and transportation are seen collectively as a “system” that can have as much impact on a person’s health as any biological system such the nervous system or cardiovascular system.

For example, if a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure but is also homeless, it is extremely difficult for that person to make healthy food choices or be focused on taking medication every day when they are challenged with finding somewhere safe to sleep at night or finding a meal provided by a shelter.

Or if a person is in therapy to help process significant life trauma, they are not going to be able to effectively use that therapy time on recovering from trauma if they recently lost their job and have no health insurance.

In sum, uncovering and addressing all the multiple factors that contribute to one’s overall health is critical to effectively addressing any presenting health factor.

What are Social Determinants of Health? 

The term for the nonmedical factors that influence health outcomes is “Social Determinants of Health (SDOH)” as defined by the Center of Disease Control. These factors are the conditions and circumstances in which people are born, grow up, work, live, and age, and the wider set of forces and economic and environmental systems shaping the conditions of one’s daily life. These conditions and systems include economic policies and systems, social norms and policies, racism, climate change, and political systems.

Social determinants of health can be grouped into five domains: 

  1. Economic stability
  2. Education access and quality of education
  3. Healthcare access and quality of care
  4. Neighborhood and community environment
  5. Social community context
What are Social Determinants of Health

Examples of SDOH include safe housing, access to nutritious foods, pollution, water quality, education quality, literacy skills, racism, neighborhood conditions, transportation, discrimination, among other factors. 

Social Determinants of Health have a major impact on people’s health and quality of life. SDOH contributes to wide health disparities and inequities. For example, people who do not have access to grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables are less likely to have good nutrition, which in turn raises the risk for heart disease, diabetes and other serious illnesses..

Whole Person Care recognizes that health extends beyond physical symptoms. It embraces a holistic perspective, emphasizing the interconnectedness of mind, body, and spirit. By adopting this approach, societies can truly promote well-being and enhance the health and lives of individuals.

Whole Person Care Utilizes a Wide Range of Resources

A Whole Person Care approach leverages a wide range of resources to provide physical, behavioral, and social support for a patient. The goal here is to achieve better care coordination, well-being, and health outcomes for the patient, all while trying to incorporate the patient’s preferences and personal choices.

Some resources used in Whole Person Care might include:

  • Behavioral and brain/mental health integrations
  • Coordination with other providers, like therapists, long-term care facilities, community services, home health services
  • Services like peer support groups, non-emergency transportation, temporary housing

To deliver these integrated services and communicate with other community and healthcare entities, health care providers need to rely on strong community partnerships and collaboration efforts. 

For more information on Whole Person Healthcare, visit these blogs:

Catawba Valley Healthcare in North Carolina practices a whole-person model of healthcare

About CVH

At Catawba Valley Healthcare (CVH) in Hickory and Burke counties of North Carolina, a whole-person model of health care is practiced in their primary care clinic and in their brain health services. CVH delivers whole-person healthcare in order to deliver optimal care for patients. 

CVH providers are trained to recognize the impact that certain diagnoses can have on other systems so that a person can truly begin to heal rather than swap one diagnosis for different health diagnoses in other body systems.

CVH fully recognizes that each patient has unique needs. Healthcare providers at CVH believe in interprofessional collaboration between primary care providers, brain health care providers, and social workers whenever necessary to address the biological, psychological, and social health aspects of healthcare. Providers also respect the personal, familial, and cultural differences of all their patients.

In many healthcare systems, coordination of care can be difficult and time-consuming as patients wait for different providers to communicate with each other. CVH and their providers wanted to change that. At CVH, both brain health and primary care providers work together under one roof towards one goal: integrated patient care. Providers take the biopsychosocial, whole-person model of care seriously in order to practice what they believe is the best model for healthcare delivery for all of their patients.

For more information on all of Catawba Valley Healthcare services, visit their website: