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Shifting the Conversation to Whole-Person Health (03:36)

What does initial success look like in shifting from a vision and passion for whole-person health care to its implementation? Toyin Ajayi, Chief Health Officer for Cityblock Health, asks her panelists for concrete first steps.

“It looks like a very different conversation in the country about what creates health, not only how we finance and deliver care,” says Tyler Norris, Chief Executive Officer of Well Being Trust. This dialogue needs to include more than just people in the health care sector — it needs to include people who produce healthy food, provide housing, extend mobility, and so on, too.

“Part of changing that conversation is recognizing the whole person, as mental, emotional, and spiritual, as well as physical, so that we look at the whole person and don’t segment when we’re trying to provide care,” says Norris. “Whole person, whole system.” Once we recognize the whole person and have that type of conversation, only then can we shift resource allocations to invest in what creates health.

Norris adds that in finding common ground on what constitutes whole-person health, we shouldn’t assume there will be toxic partisanship on some issues. “There is a tremendous opportunity to actually, as a nation, say, ‘We want to invest in what creates health and creates a strong nation in our third century.’”

“To me, success is that we have a shared definition of success,” says Rebecca Onie, Co-Founder of Health Leads. She describes a pivotal moment in the same-sex marriage movement: agreement that the movement would be about marriage. “There was an opportunity for it to be about nondiscrimination or a whole set of other priorities, and there were a lot of folks who were very committed around issues of equality relative to gay rights where there was a fundamental disagreement about is marriage even the thing we go for,” she explains.

“But the beauty of it was that it was incredibly clear. Folks could choose to be part of it, they could choose to not be part of it, and what was so brilliant was that there was a recognition that that goal was not the be all, end all, but was a pathway to shift the conversation in the country.”

“We are sorely missing that [in health care],” says Onie. “Those of us who are committed to a broader notion of health, the fact that we can’t articulate where we should be in 10 years, it assures we will not achieve our goals.”

From the NEJM Catalyst event Expanding the Bounds of Care Delivery: Integrating Mental, Social, and Physical Health, held at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, January 25, 2018.

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