Caring for the Whole Person:
How Do We Address Stress?
Americans experience some of the highest rates of stress in the world. Those in lower socio-economic brackets report even higher levels, and this can negatively impact their overall health. A whole person care approach can help health and human service organizations better address stress.
April is Stress Awareness Month
When was the last time you felt stressed?
Stress is an important and valuable part of the human experience. It can help us think more clearly, motivate us to complete difficult tasks, and give us the energy to follow through. However, too much stress can quickly become detrimental to our health. In fact, many (if not most) health issues are greatly exacerbated by both short – and long-term stress.
Interestingly, Americans are among the most stressed people in the world. Over half of all US adults report feeling stressed “a lot of the day”. According to the Stress in America National Survey, 48% of Americans said the level of stress in their life has increased since the pandemic.
This disparity is even greater among Americans in lower socio-economic brackets. Researchers agree that poor social determinants of health—indicators like access to transportation, reliable shelter, and nutritious food—directly increase stress. Likewise, increased stress can lead to poorer social determinants of health. Thus, this relationship becomes self-reinforcing and all encompassing.
In order to help individuals and communities overcome this detrimental cycle, organizations need an approach that addresses the whole person.
Whole Person Care Definition
What exactly does it mean to “address the whole person”?
Whole person care is defined as the coordination between healthcare providers and social services in a patient-centered manner. This approach is designed to bridge the gap between complex health and social needs. In so doing, whole person care can provide patients with personalized, integrated care while simultaneously building partnerships with local programs and better utilizing community resources.
Whole person care is critical in situations where social circumstances are impacting traditional health. For example, a health care provider might counsel a diabetes patient to eat a healthier diet. However, the provider might not know that the patient does not have adequate transportation to access a grocery store or the economic stability to purchase fresh food.
Whole person care can address situations like the one above. By facilitating communication between health care providers and health and human service organizations, practitioners can learn how to screen for social needs that might inhibit health care. They can then coordinate with non-profits and community resources, like a food bank or transportation service, to ensure that the patient has the tools to follow prescriptions and regain their health.
Caring for the Whole Person
Whole person care is critical to address individual and community stress.
Stress can come from anything and often compounds from a variety of sources. Without whole person care, a health practitioner or social service worker is likely only addressing part of the stress. Until the whole is handled, the inverse relationship of stress and poor social determinants of health will continue to thrive.
While the benefits of whole person care are clear, the implementation can often seem complicated. Indeed, coordinating health and social services is no simple feat. It requires communication, integration, and infrastructure, much of which needs to be built from the ground up. Although it may seem intimidating, research shows that the payoff is more than worthwhile: whole person care is really what it takes to make effective, lasting change among the people you serve.
So how do you get started?
One of the best ways to begin implementing whole person care is through powerful case management. Case management platforms like ClientTrack™ can streamline coordination between organizations. Through sharing data and allowing cross-program tracking, ClientTrack helps social workers and other health professionals ensure that social determinants of health are being met and individuals are accessing all the resources they need, either through your program or another community initiative.
While stress has a debilitating effect on health and well-being, it does not have to. Through whole person care, health and human services can better address adverse stress, thus helping individuals and communities achieve a higher quality of life.
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