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Medical Care Highlights Benefits of Complementary and Integrative Health Therapies for Veterans

August 25, 2020

The September Medical Care Supplement titled “The Implementation of Complementary and Integrative Health Therapies in the Veterans Health Administration,” includes 11 papers and commentaries on VA’s progress in implementing and evaluating the impact of CIH approaches on Veterans. This special issue documents progress toward implementing CIH approaches throughout the VA healthcare system as part  of the VA’ transformation to a Whole Health System of care that empowers and equips both Veterans and VA staff members to take charge of their health and live their life to the fullest. Implementation of CIH approaches also is supported by the 2016 Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), which required VA to expand CIH approach provision, research and education. This was done in conjunction with the Whole Health System of Care transformation.

Guest Editors for this supplement are A. Rani Elwy, PhD, an investigator with HSR&D’s Center for Healthcare Organization and Implementation Research (CHOIR) and Associate Professor at the Warren Alpert School of Medicine, Brown University, and Stephanie L. Taylor, PhD, who leads QUERI’s Complementary and Integrative Health Evaluation Center and as Associate Director at HSR&D’s Center for the Study of Healthcare Innovation, Implementation and Policy (CSHIIP) in Los Angeles, CA and Adjunct Professor at UCLA. “We already know that CIH therapies are effective for the treatment of Veterans’ chronic pain, posttraumatic stress, depression, and other chronic conditions,” Drs. Elwy and Taylor wrote in their Introduction to the Supplement. “Now we need to develop, test, and use effective strategies to increase CIH use and sustainment.” A study led by Dr. Elwy and featured in the Supplement shows that three popular CIH therapies – yoga, tai chi, and meditation – were associated with significant improvements in patient-reported outcomes:

  • Yoga – the most popular among Veterans – was related to decreases in perceived stress;
  • Tai chi was linked to improvements in overall physical and mental health functioning, anxiety levels, and the ability to participate in social role activities; and
  • Meditation also was associated with improvements in physical functioning.

In a Supplement Commentary, Alison Whitehead, MPH, RYT, PMP, Acting Director for the Integrative Health Coordinating Center, and Benjamin Kligler, MD, MPH,  Executive Director of VA’s Office of Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Transformation stated: “As the VA continues to develop new and better ways of making CIH approaches available to all Veterans, and to collect data on the outcomes of this expanded access for Veterans and employees, we hope to demonstrate to the rest of the U.S. healthcare system how an emphasis on whole person care and self-management skills should become the new standard across the industry”.

To read more about this special Supplement, visit Medical Care.

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