According to the CDC, over 130 million Americans suffer from chronic diseases. Six in ten adults have a single chronic disease diagnosis, and four in ten adults have two or more. These numbers are staggering, and health care costs have skyrocketed, with 90% of the nation’s annual health care expenditures ($3.8 trillion) going toward treatment of chronic physical (e.g., obesity) and mental health conditions (e.g., addiction). In addressing these challenges, we still rely heavily on conventional pharmaceutical approaches, despite data supporting that integrating allopathic medicine, complementary care, and self-care to promote health are remarkably useful and successful. Complementary approaches to allopathic health care, such as acupuncture, yoga, massage, exercise, health coaching, and culinary medicine, are becoming more widely recognized and valued in the health care system. This critical shift is needed to educate and empower health care professionals, patients, and policymakers, to facilitate change, and to make lifestyle and integrative therapies that support behavior change available. It is time to focus on a multifactorial approach to the restoration of health that involves the whole person.
The University of Vermont (UVM), the University of Vermont Health Network (UVMHN), and the state of Vermont are leading the way in whole-health delivery and integrative health as the standard of care, accessible to everyone in our region. Vermont’s small size, close collaborations between academic, state, and other organizations, and progressive nature present a unique opportunity to realize change and demonstrate progress in shifting the paradigm toward integrative health, particularly for rural areas.