What is holistic healthcare?
Holism emphasises relatedness rather than separation. Rather than reducing individuals to disease labels and relying too easily on pharmaceutical magic bullets, holistic healthcare looks for more diverse approaches to creating health. Our relationships, our culture, and our immediate and global environment all profoundly affect our health. It’s vitally important to co-create a medical system that supports well-being, including that of our hard-pressed health workers. Above all, faced with healthcare budgets soaring worldwide we have to embrace sustainable solutions for the millions who need more than biomedicine alone can offer.
At the BHMA we strive to ensure modern healthcare works for Practitioner, Patient & Planet.
A definition of holistic
For many people, the word holistic in a healthcare context refers vaguely to natural therapies. But for us, holistic healthcare is about better understanding ourselves, the world and our place in it. A definition of holism might state:
nothing can be fully understood unless one sees the whole system of which it is part – and the whole is always more than the sum of its parts.
In healthcare especially, we need to reclaim the word, holistic, because its meaning is so central to being human. Other (perhaps all) languages have words that mean something similar to the original meaning of holistic. For instance, German has gestalt, and the Nguni Bantu languages of Southern Africa have ubuntu. We in the BHMA have looked for a way of exploiting the wonders of bio-science with the right hand, without sacrificing the holistic approach assigned to the left hand.
The motto, “Physician Heal Thyself,” refers to making whole – re-establishing connectedness and relationship where they have failed or been forgotten. The growing interest in holistic healthcare globally reflects our need to make medical science better by including the mind and the spirit. Anyone who has been seriously ill knows the vital importance of feelings, relationships and hope in aiding recovery.
Each of us has the potential for caring, responsiveness and adaptability. Those who work in healthcare need to keep these qualities alive within themselves if they are to help others. The fellowship and support of colleagues with similar attitudes and experiences can be a great help in this. So too can contact with practitioners whose ideas and skills for well-being complement and can benefit our own.
In conclusion, holistic healthcare provides a comprehensive, individualized approach to health that considers patients‘ physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. It is an approach to healthcare that is increasingly being embraced to improve patient outcomes while having a positive environmental impact. It also empowers practitioners with the tools to provide better care and have more meaningful patient interactions. For these reasons, holistic healthcare is an invaluable asset to the global healthcare system.
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