What is the BHMA?
The BHMA provides a home and a bold, critical voice for anyone wanting healthcare that puts humanity and values first.
We publish the high quality Journal of Holistic Healthcare (JHH) three times per year in digital and paper formats. We aim for this to be as readable and relevant to the general public as it is to the healthcare professional.
We publish a regular newsletter with topical items of interest for the public and the professional.
Our website is a growing treasure trove for anyone wanting more understanding of the balance of the human and the technical in healthcare.
We get together with other like-minded organisations for joint projects emerging from shared aims.
Find out about membership of the BHMA
Why is the BHMA needed?
We believe that many of the problems we face in the 21st century come from taking too narrow a view of the human predicament. Being human is complex and seems to become ever more so. When ill health strikes us the medical response of making a diagnosis and prescribing treatment can be life-saving, but on its own it is rarely enough. Too often it involves ignoring or brushing aside the uniqueness of the individual and the contexts of their life. This is often where the deeper meanings are found – hidden within and around the immediate issue. We can all simplify like this: everyone involved in healthcare – the patient, the patient’s family, the healthcare professional, the commissioning and service managers and, of course, the politicians responsible for setting policy. We can all avoid deeper problems that seem too big or too complex or too worrying to admit to ourselves. Then we focus on something that feels more certain and familiar, and can become rigid about it. If we do no more than attach a simple name to the suffering, and then applying the remedy that goes with that name we risk misunderstanding and focusing on the wrong problem.
The human spirit glows from that small inner doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain and injustice. Saul Alinsky (Rules for Radicals)
What does ‘holistic’ mean?
The above section shows what the BHMA means by a holistic understanding of healthcare. But can we actually define the word? Like the word ‘love’, the reality usually transcends any attempt at a definition. However, our mission is to show how it is possible to talk about holistic healthcare and develop it meaningfully. In fact, we have found no suitable alternative word in the English language. Perhaps any ‘nation of shopkeepers’ has little use for the concept! A South African, Jan Smuts coined the term ‘holism’ in 1926. Smuts was a ‘prominent South African and British Commonwealth statesman, military leader and philosopher’ prior to the establishment of apartheid (which idea he did not support).
Interestingly, the African word, ‘ubuntu‘, comes close to the meaning of ‘holistic’ used by the BHMA.
The dictionary definition of holism (from the Greek holos) states that nothing can be fully understood unless one sees the whole system of which it is part; that is the whole is always more than the sum of its parts. It has the same linguistic roots as whole, holy and health. At the BHMA we use the word in this sense, not in the sense of its association with Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Many different forms of healthcare practice are included under this umbrella term. Many CAM practitioners work in a way that we would accept as holistic. Some do not. For more see the article linked below.
Read Being Holistic by Chair William House, published in JHH Spring 2016
What Patients say:
“I think holistic care is humane care where it is about individuals not their illness.”
“ I want a holistic doctor to look after me, someone to really listen and try to understand me. Someone who is caring as well as being good at his or her job is being holistic. ”
“I have a holistic nurse. She went to so much trouble to help me sort my life out, you know, that bit extra effort to find something that might help, even phoned me at home to see how I was getting on.”
”Instead of just printing out a prescription we talked about how I could do things for myself, no one’s done that before.”
What we say:
“Holism is more about relatedness rather than separation, taking a broader view rather than reducing individuals to disease labels. A holistic approach recognises that our relationships, our culture, our immediate and global environment all profoundly affect our health and well-being.”
Prof David Peters, Editor of the Journal of Holistic Healthcare
“A willingness to use a wide range of interventions … an emphasis on a more participatory relationship between doctor and patient; and an awareness of the impact of the ‘health’ of the practitioner on the patient.”
Patrick Pietroni, founding Chairman of the BHMA writing in Practitioner in 1997
“It’s time to replace over-reliance on pharmaceutical ‘magic bullets’ with diverse approaches for creating health. We need to support well-being, self-care in chronic disease and the well-being of health-workers. Above all we have to embrace effective and sustainable solutions for the millions who need more than biomedicine alone can offer.”
Simon Mills, BHMA trustee
” ‘Holistic’ is a good and useful word. For a start it does not mean a particular religion, faith or belief. What it means is a general approach — an approach that is open-hearted, open-minded, recognises the connections between all aspects of life and respects the essence of all the world’s various spiritual traditions. It is also a word that recognises the links between spirituality, health and wellbeing; and supports our care and love for the natural world.”
William Bloom, Author and educator