It’s finally happened. There is an insurance company running a very catchy advertisement promoting “feeling whole”. The first time I saw it I thought, we have finally turned the corner. For those of us who have worked long and hard in the trenches to bring the awareness of wholeness into the mainstream, it appears that it is finally catching on. And of course, I’m ecstatic but also a bit cautionary.

Wholeness is much more than a catchy marketing slogan. Yes, it sounds great. Everyone wants to “feel whole” right?   Who could be against that? But I’m concerned that wholeness could become a diluted phrase that means nothing after all. Kind of like the word organic. Organic used to have standards that ensured a high quality growing method. Then mainstream food systems discovered they could charge more for organic so they wanted in on it too. That’s when they went behind the scenes to dilute the standards and co-opt the name. And somehow they got away with it so that true organic farmers are left wondering what happened as they compete with products that have organic on the label but are not grown with the high standards that traditional organic farmers employ.

Will this happen to Wholeness too? Is “wholeness” an advertising phrase that somehow convinces a client that a health care system is helping them achieve wholeness but it really isn’t? Wholeness means understanding a human as a physical, emotional, thinking, sexual and spiritual being. From a health care perspective, it means approaching health challenges with an awareness of the whole person versus just the symptom or problem they’re presenting with at the moment. Is this actually going to happen now in our health care systems?

Let me give you an example—heart disease. This is a big problem for many people in our country. An early symptom of heart disease is high blood pressure. The typical response is to put the patient on medication. But what would be the solution from a wholeness health care system?

High blood pressure can be caused by a wide variety of issues such as: Overweight/obesity;  Lack of exercise;  Inability to manage one’s emotions like anger;  Stressful lifestyle.

Instead of putting a client on a medication for life, how might a wholeness based health care system proceed? Can someone expect that a health care system promoting wholeness try some of the following solutions instead?

Let’s take those causes mentioned above and apply a wholeness-based solution for high blood pressure:

  • Overweight/obesity: The doctor/health care system works with the client to help them lose weight and change their nutrition lifestyle. If the health care system is truly promoting wholeness, the doctor educates the patient on whole person health and insists on the patient working towards this. The doctor stresses to them how making these changes not only will manage their blood pressure but will provide other benefits too—the biggest one being preventing heart disease over the lifespan.
  • Lack of exercise: The doctor/health care system encourages/requires the client to begin a daily walking program that is increased over the two months before a return visit. The patient understands that exercise impacts their wholeness—not just blood pressure. So, exercise can help with mood regulation, prevent diabetes, our capacity for high level thinking, improves internal voice communication etc.
  • Poor ability to manage one’s emotions like anger: The doctor/health care system encourages the client to participate in a “cognitive/behavioral’ anger management course as well as a course on meditation. The patient discovers that they can literally lower their own blood pressure by employing these actions.
  • Stressful lifestyle: The doctor/health system enrolls the client in a lifestyle management course that includes meditation, yoga, journaling and a weekly family support system group that helps all members of the family build a less stressful home life.

When you look at these solutions you can see that not only will the client’s blood pressure likely come down but their total whole health will be better too. That means heart disease may be interrupted in their younger years and preventing it from being a high-risk cause of death later on.  It’s all about empowering the client and saying—we want you to be vibrantly healthy.

But the reality right now is that little if any of the above happens—even when the health care system is promoting wholeness.  So how do we prevent wholeness from becoming nothing more than a catchy phrase? I think it starts with you, the patient! Insist that your health care professional discuss wholeness solutions with you. Share the above with them and ask them—what would you suggest other than a pill? Or, even better—when they offer the pill as the only option tell them that you want the wholeness option instead. This will likely come as a shock to the doctor—but will also help them begin the shift to ensuring that wholeness and health care are really a team working together.

And that’s the bottom-line. Patient, doctors and health care system really are a team and if wholeness is going to become the foundation for future health care—we all need to work together.