What is Integrative Health Care?

What is Integrative Health Care?

The field of integrative health care affirms the importance of the relationship between practitioner and patient, focusing on the whole person; is informed by multiple patterns of knowing (aesthetic, personal, empirical, ethical) and forms of evidence based on these patterns; and makes use of all appropriate therapeutic approaches, healthcare professionals and professions to achieve optimal health and healing. Simply put, integrative health care offers best practices for optimal health and healing.

A History of Definitions

Many terms have been commonly used to describe integrative health care over the past two decades. Alternative medicine was a term that emerged to express approaches separate from conventional medicine. Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) then became the preferred term, indicating a broad range of healing philosophies and approaches that were outside of conventional medical approaches but could be used as stand-alone alternatives or adjunctive approaches to conventional care. Integrative Health Care is a newer term that emphasizes the integration of CAM with conventional medicine, and a term preferred by professions (i.e., nursing, naturopaths, herbal therapists, energy therapists) and educational institutions outside of medicine.

Why Use the Term Health Care instead of Medicine?

The Holistic Community believes that integrative health care is inherently interprofessional. Medicine is but a section of the total picture of health care and focuses on the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease.  Integrative Health Care focuses on the health and healing of each unique individual.  Interprofessional communication, collaboration, education and team-based care are at the heart of integrative health care as we unite the many voices to transform health care together.   Many health professionals, particularly holistic nurse practitioners, not only diagnose or treat disease we honor the choices of patients and families; focusing on “patient centered care”, using complementary modalities, and seek to integrate all health professionals working with the child. In this work, you will notice health is intentionally used to emphasize the focus of our work throughout the health and healing journey of each individual.  Integrative Health Care is the future for a collaborative model focusing on health and wellness. 

R. Buckminster Fuller wisely said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”  Holistic Nurse Practitioners are integrating this Holistic/Integrative Health Care Model.

Are Children and Families Using Complementary Health Care/Modalities?

A study conducted in 2007 validates that both Parents and Children are using Integrative Health Care.  Within the population of adults queried about their use of complementary/alternative therapies, 11.8% responded that they have sought CAM therapies for their children. The most common conditions that parents sought Integrative Health Care for their child included: Backpain/Neck pain (6.7%), Head or Chest Colds (6.6%), Anxiety/Stress (4.8%), ADHD (2.5%) and Insominia (1.8).  The natural products used in these children included: Echinacea (37.2%), Fish Oil/Omega 3s (30.5%) Combined herbs and oils (17.9%), and Flaxseed Oil (16.7%).  Common complementary modalities included: Chiropractic/Osteopathic (2.8%), Deep Breathing (2.2%), Yoga (2.1%), Homeopathy (1.3%), Traditional Healers (1.1%), Massage (1%), Meditation (1%), Diet Based Therapies (0.8%) and Progressive Relaxation (0.5%) (Barnes, Bloom, Nahin, 2008).  In 2012 Faust reported an updated survey that found 33.2% of U.S. adults and 11.6% of U.S. children age 4 to 17 used complementary health approaches. This survey found that there were significant increases in children who use yoga, fish oil and melatonin.  While Echinacea was the most commonly used supplement in the 2007 survey, fish oil was the most common supplement used in children in 2012.  In 2012 there was a statistically significant increase in the use of all movement therapies including yoga, tai chi and qi gong.  More than 3 percent of children in the 2012 survey practiced a motion therapy.  Over 1.9 million children had experienced a chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation (Faust, 2012).  

Patterns, Patient Satisfaction and Cost Effectiveness of Integrative Health Care

Practitioners and Families are all too aware of the staggering economic impact of the most common preventable acute and chronic conditions. Integrative health care focuses on prevention, high-quality partnerships among families, children and clinicians and evidence-informed therapies that are not only cost effective, but improve health. These areas of focus are the driving factors behind the success of an integrative health model. It is important to understand that integrative health is inclusive of conventional care (physicals, mental health services, sick child visits) but also offers complementary therapies and approaches to the health of each child.  The irony of the integrative health care movement is that although an increasing number of holistic/integrative practitioners are emerging many of these practitioners still operate separately from each other.   Practitioners must create links between the community of healthcare practitioners, advocates and heath seekers connected by a shared holistic philosophy of person-centered care.

Why Is Integrative Health Care So Appealing?

It is clear that the appeal of integrative healthcare for parents and children is escalating. Use of integrative health is as high as 90% for certain patient populations in the US, is 38% for all adult Americans and 18% for the child/adolescent population. The most common conditions successfully treated are chronic pain, gastrointestinal disorders, depression/anxiety, sinus infections, cold and coughs, cancer, and stress.

The Bravewell Collaborative has identified the efficacy of an integrative approach to health care emerging from three sources: research, health and wellness programs, and individuals seeking health and healing for self and family.  Research has revealed significant health benefits of three strategies: integrative lifestyle programs for those with chronic illness, integrative interventions for people with depression and integrative prevention strategies for the population as a whole.  Additional research is anticipated that confirm how integrative health care supports the triple aim of improving the health care experience, improving the health and wellness of populations, and reducing the costs of health care.

Health is more than the absence of disease. Health includes vitality, joy, and wholeness. Whether you identify yourself as a patient, a consumer, a practitioner, or an advocate, there is a role for you in promoting Integrative Health Care.

If you are seeking practitioners who practice integrative health care and connect with community members we ask that you consider Integrative Pediatric Health Care (IPHC) as one of the options.  Therapies within Integrative Pediatric Health Care are individualized to meet each child and parent’s needs.  Integrative Pediatric Health Care acknowledges the importance of personal decisions as the center of the health care that we provide.



Barnes, P., Bloom, B., Nahin, R. (2008).  Complementary and alternative medicine use among adults and children: United States, 2007.  National Health Statistical Report, 12(12), 1-23.

Faust, R. (2012).  Integrative Medicine in Children Update  https://www.aihm.org/complementary-alternative-medicine-in-children.

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