What is Integrative Health and Medicine?

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In brief, and integrative approach to health is one which recognizes that:

Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity, as defined by the World Health Organization.

A multitude of internal and external factors (genetics, lifestyle, environment, social determinants, access to care, etc.) influence disease, health and well-being, and, therefore;

All appropriate practitioners and evidence-based therapies – conventional and/or complementary – should be explored to optimize health. What’s in a name? Read more about integrative health terms on the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health website.

The Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health defines “integrative medicine and health” as an approach that:

“…reaffirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focuses on the whole person, is informed by evidence, and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic and lifestyle approaches, healthcare professionals and disciplines to achieve optimal health and healing.”

Integrative medicine puts the philosophy of integrative health to practice. It is both holistic and preventative in nature. Dr. Dean Ornish, founder of the Preventative Medicine Research Institute, uses the analogy of an overflowing sink to illustrate the difference between conventional and integrative medicine. In the former, Ornish states, clinicians spend a great deal of time mopping up the floor around the sink, instead of just turning off the faucet.

A key piece of integrative health and medicine is the inclusion of western medicine in an individual’s treatment plan and health care team. The Caring Ambassadors believes that seeking out the best medical practitioners and treatments for your long-term disease(s) should always be the first stop in your journey.

While medical doctors are valuable and necessary experts for diagnosing and treating illness, they are often not enough – due to a lack of time, resources, knowledge, or personal beliefs – for helping individuals achieve wellness. The focus of integrative health is wellness and healing; not illness. A diagnosis of a long-term disease does not have to prevent you from living well. Taking an integrative approach can help you get there.

Read more: Integrative Health & the Evidence