All About VA Whole Health

By Ronald Rutherford, Lead Whole Health Outreach
and Andrea Young, Health System & Communications Specialist

What matters to you — not, what is the matter with you — is the focus of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) model of Whole Health. Your whole health team will get to know you as a person to develop a personalized health plan based on your values, needs, and goals to best support your full health and well-being.

Why Whole Health?
Health outcomes in our country are poor. The U.S. is now ranked 46th in life expectancy, despite spending far more on health care than any other country. VA recognized it was time to create a health system, rather than a disease care system; one that empowers and equips Veterans to discover a new path to health and well-being. VA is a national leader in Whole Health.

How is this different?
Whole Health puts you in control of your care, focusing on self-care, skill building, and support. These services are not diagnosis or disease-based but support the personal health plan of each veteran. Stress reduction, yoga, tai chi, mindfulness, nutrition, acupuncture, and health coaching are available. You don’t have to wait until something is wrong to improve your well-being. You can set goals based on what is important to you and work toward those goals with your health care team.

Will Whole Health help me?
Studies show veterans who use Whole Health services report being able to manage stress better and note care they receive as more patient centered. Veterans with chronic pain who used Whole Health services had a threefold reduction in opioid use compared to those who did not. Since focusing on the eight self-care areas of the Circle of Health, veterans report pain management is not the only benefit of using Whole Health services. They are having success with weight loss, improved mental health as well as improvements in vital signs and diagnostic test results.

Whole Health in Action

Scot Moon

Marine Reservist, Scot Moon struggled with chronic neck pain since High School. Moon, a VA employee in Long Beach California, found a 11-minute acupressure routine on VA’s #LiveWholeHealth Blog series instructed by registered nurse LaurieAnne Nabinger with the Seattle VA Medical Center. He practiced it several times a day and within a week his pain was gone. Before that, Moon saw a massage therapist weekly at $80 per visit. “I didn’t look forward to that because it was so intense,” he said. “I always had knots in the muscles between my shoulder blades that had to be worked out. They are no longer there.” Moon now enjoys swimming, cycling and indoor rock climbing, which he cruises through without any of the pain he lived with for years.

Richard Fratelli

At 77 years old, Marine Corps veteran Richard Fratarelli has made huge strides in his personal fitness and health with help from a Whole Health Coach. Fratarelli lost 70 pounds in less than a year with the support of his Whole Health Coach Lindsey Higdon at the Port Charlotte VA Outpatient Clinic in Florida. Besides sticking to a healthy diet, exercise was key to meeting his health goals. Fratarelli noted that when he started in June 2021, “I could barely make it across the room.” Now he walks four miles most days — even walking a 5K Turkey Trot last November with a walker.
A Vietnam-era combat veteran, Fratelli said health care providers had been telling him for several years he needed to lose weight, and he had put it off. But he decided he couldn’t put it off any longer after his A1c level (a three-month average blood sugar level) spiked, forcing him to start taking diabetes medication. His VA primary care provider encouraged him to work with a Whole Health Coach to lose weight.

How can I start?
VA Whole Health information, tools, and resources including the Whole Health App are available and easily accessible through our website Whole Health services are available through your VA health care facility. Stop in and ask to speak to your VA facility’s Whole Health staff.

Volume 76. Number 2. 2022