What's Integrative Health?

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Integrative health—an approach to promoting, protecting, and understanding health—respects the complex interrelationships that influence the health of individuals and populations.

Integrative health views human beings as dynamic organisms in which the body, mind, and spirit are linked. It recognizes that health is influenced not only by medical care but by behaviors, such as dietary, exercise and sleep habits, as well as by stress, genetics, socio-economic status, and other factors. Integrative health acknowledges that these factors are shaped by public policies, economic conditions, social and cultural values, and physical environments.

Integrative health is concerned with health across the lifespan, from gestation through old age, and the cumulative impact of health-shaping factors and experiences. It empowers individuals and communities to live in ways that foster health and well-being and prevent disease. It advocates for person-centered health care that’s informed by scientific evidence and uses all appropriate preventative and therapeutic approaches. Integrative health also carries out population-based strategies, such as public education campaigns and in-school programs, to improve health and prevent disease.

In 2016, the Institute for Integrative Health developed a new definition of integrative health in collaboration with the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine:

Integrative health is a state of well-being in body, mind and spirit that reflects aspects of the individual, community, and population. It is affected by 1) individual biological factors and behaviors, social values, and public policy, 2) the physical, social, and economic environment, and 3) an integrative healthcare system that involves the active participation of the individual in the healthcare team in applying a broad spectrum of preventive and therapeutic approaches. Integrative health encourages individuals, social groups, and communities to develop ways of living that promote meaning, resilience and well-being across the life course.

The definition debuted in a paper lead-authored by Institute Scholar Claudia Witt, PhD, MBA: "Defining Health in a Comprehensive Context: A New Definition of Integrative Health." The paper was published online in February 2017 by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and will appear in an upcoming issue.