The term whole person care has been getting much attention in the medical community. The National Academy of Sciences recently reported that whole person medicine should be the future of healthcare for the nation. They would like to see a movement to support, scale, and spread the adoption of whole person care across the country. The Institute for Natural Medicine could not agree more. Naturopathic doctors have been practicing whole person medicine for more than a century.
Naturopathic medicine has been at the forefront of whole person care since its practices were codified in the 19th century. In the intervening 200 years, naturopathic medicine has become a hub for integrating evidence-supported modern medicine with the body’s innate ability to heal.
While this philosophy of whole person care may seem new in the medical community, it has been actively practiced in the United States since the early 1900s when medical doctors, osteopaths, and naturopaths launched a movement towards whole person care and a holistic approach to health (read more here).
Western medicine focuses on how to treat ailments symptomatically, which, while successful for acute care, often introduces more problems in the long term. It is time for a multidisciplinary approach that treats the whole person. An approach that includes naturopathic medicine.
Recent recommendations from the National Academy of Sciences suggest a healthcare system that addresses “the social and structural determinants at the root of poor health, focusing on the priorities and goals of people, families, and communities.” They recommend whole healthcare centers that promote resilience, prevent disease, and restore health. Yet these whole person centers already exist as naturopathic medical clinics led by licensed naturopathic doctors across this country. In states where insurance covers naturopathic medicine, clinics see patients who have restored health, benefit from established preventive health practices, and see lower costs, according to the white paper, Naturopathic Physicians as Whole Health Specialists.
Naturopathic Medicine is Whole Person Medicine
The National Academy of Sciences reports a desire to shift healthcare focus from a “reactive disease-oriented medical care system to one that prioritizes disease prevention, health, and well-being.” This shift in focus places the person, not their symptoms, at the center of care. Naturopathic medicine has a history of this type of care and stands ready to teach others about whole person care from a naturopathic medicine perspective.
Here’s why naturopathic medicine and whole person medicine are one and the same.
- Naturopathic doctors take a holistic approach to healthcare, looking at all aspects of a person’s health, including their physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Naturopathic doctors also establish how an individual’s community, work, and home life affect their health – a process better known as the social determinants of health.
- Naturopathic and whole person medicine share the same philosophy of treating people holistically rather than just addressing their symptoms. It recognizes that a person’s diet, stress levels, and physical health are closely tied to their mental and emotional well-being and that all aspects of their health must be addressed to achieve optimal well-being.
- Naturopathic doctors view the entire body as an interactive system and consider them holistically. Every system, organ, pathway, and function is interconnected and interrelated, which requires a vast level of knowledge and understanding of complex interactions of the human body.
- Rather than prescribing drugs or surgeries as a first-line approach, naturopathic medicine starts with the least harmful method first to support the body’s natural healing processes. Naturopathic doctors may employ a variety of treatments, such as dietary supplements and herbal remedies, lifestyle support, stress reduction, manipulative therapies, acupuncture, and nutritional changes to support the body’s natural healing processes.
Naturopathic Medicine’s Role in Whole Person Care and Chronic Disease Prevention
Naturopathic medicine and whole person medicine are closely linked as they both emphasize treating the whole person rather than just their symptoms. Naturopathic medicine is proven to address preventable gateway health issues before they reach a chronic state of dysfunction, such as obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other metabolic-related health issues.
It is time to bring our collective knowledge together to treat the whole person with a multidisciplinary approach that includes naturopathic medicine.
See the highlights and download the National Academy of Sciences, Achieving Whole Health Report Here.