Veteran Participation in the Integrative Health and Wellness Program: Impact on Self-Reported Mental and Physical Health Outcomes

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Complementary and integrative health (CIH) services are being used more widely across the nation, including in both military and veteran hospital settings. Literature suggests that a variety of CIH services show promise in treating a wide range of physical and mental health disorders. Notably, the Department of Veterans Affairs is implementing CIH services within the context of a health care transformation, changing from disease based health care to a personalized, proactive, patient-centered approach where the veteran, not the disease, is at the center of care. This study examines self-reported physical and mental health outcomes associated with participation in the Integrative Health and Wellness Program, a comprehensive CIH program at the Washington DC VA Medical Center and one of the first wellbeing programs of its kind within the VA system. Using a prospective cohort design, veterans enrolled in the Integrative Health and Wellness Program filled out self-report measures of physical and mental health throughout program participation, including at enrollment, 12 weeks, and 6 months. Analyses revealed that veterans reported significant improvements in their most salient symptoms of concern (primarily pain or mental health symptoms), physical quality of life, wellbeing, and ability to participate in valued activities at follow-up assessments. These results illustrate the potential of CIH services, provided within a comprehensive clinic focused on wellbeing not disease, to improve self-reported health, wellbeing, and quality of life in a veteran population. Additionally, data support recent VA initiatives to increase the range of CIH services available and the continued growth of wellbeing programs within VA settings.

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