VA St. Louis Health Care System takes a new approach to healthcare

The "Whole Health System" tries to take a look at the bigger picture of a patient's health.

Fred Bodimer
September 03, 2019 - 3:46 am

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — A new program now being offered through the nation's V-A Healthcare system attempts to change the way healthcare has been traditionally offered. 

"We have really seen a shift in how we want to deliver healthcare," said Dr. Kavitha Reddy, the clinical director of the St. Louis V-A's Whole Health System.  "And that comes from a place of knowing healthcare in the United States is being delivered currently often in a very fragmented way -- meaning patients often see multiple specialists and get multiple prescriptions. Often when they come to the doctor, they are seen for their illness or problem and not necessarily seen as the whole person."

The key here is taking that whole health approach. 

"And what that means is that it's not just about the clinical care or the illnesses or the diseases that a person has, but it's about their lifelong health and well-being," Reddy tells KMOX. "If we did more to help
people with empowerment, setting their healthcare goals, being activated and motivated to take care of themselves, and provide them with skills to actually make them be able to meet their goals, we would  actually see a shift in how people are managing a lot of their chronic illnesses and diseases."
Two years ago, the VA invested in 18 flagship sites for this Whole Health approach.  "And the St. Louis VA has really led the charge in this transformation," said Reddy. 
Reddy calls this approach groundbreaking. 
"We are trying to really shift from a population where the patient sits in the doctor's office and is told what you need to do -- you need to quit smoking, you need to move more, you need to eat better, see me in six months -- to asking what's important to you, what drives you, what motivates you and how do we create shared goals that you are actually motivated around.  And once you create that goal, how do we give you the skill- building to be able to accomplish it."

Take for example, seeking care for chronic pain issues.  
"You can do anything, from a multi-week interdisciplinary pain rehabilitation program that very much focuses on the whole body -- so you will get the psychological component, nutritional, movement, pain medications if needed, chiro, acupuncture, things like that," Reddy said. 

"If somebody wants to do more education, we have classes on mindfulness, spirit and soul, really learning your value in life and making sure your environment is helping you as far as pain relief.  And if you are wanting to do more self care on your own, we have yoga, Tai Chi, meditation, and we have mindful eating because nutrition is very connected to pain.  So you name it, we have it."

Reddy says the VA is hoping more veterans will take advantage of this new system. 
 "So what's interesting about this is you don't have to be sick to use this," said Reddy. "It's all about being proactive. It's not that you can't use it if you are suffering from diabetes or hypertension or cancer or whatever it may be -- but we really want to get people in -- even when they are healthy -- because if we can do this kind of work with them -- really teach them skill building, resources and do that while they are young, you are looking at potentially putting off disease further down the road."
To find out more about the VA's Whole Health System, log onto or contact the Whole Health and Well-Being coordinators at 314-289-6583. 

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