Integrative Health and Wellness

We envision a future where person-centered approaches to whole health and wellness, spanning the spectrum of life’s choices, are available to all.

Lisa Harmon participated in an Honoring a Life Workshop and has become an advocate for the Arizona End of Life Care Partnership, sharing how her experience helped her and her family.

David Lovell’s experience with integrative medicine techniques, such as guided imagery and meditation, as he was experiencing end-stage lung cancer helped him to spend his last few weeks more peacefully while connecting with the people he loved. Others in the Lovell family have learned to manage chronic conditions by adopting an integrative perspective in their health and wellness care.  These personal experiences led to the Foundation’s support of the nascent field of Integrative Medicine. Over time, our focus has broadened to become “Integrative Health and Wellness” as much of what supports health and wellness, such as nutrition, mindfulness, body work, and therapeutic exercise, goes far beyond “medicine.” Ultimately, we support an approach to health care that takes all aspects of a person’s life (mind, body, spirit, environment, work, purpose, etc.) into account when considering how to achieve long-term health and wellness. 

We began our journey by supporting the efforts of Dr. Andrew Weil and staff at what is now The University of Arizona Andrew Weil Center for Integrative Medicine. Dr. Weil led a national movement to identify and disseminate models of integrative care, develop the research base for integrative medicine, and change the way physicians are educated. We later supported The Bravewell Collaborative, which helped to broaden awareness internationally for integrative methods of treatment. Today, treatments like acupuncture are covered by Medicare and used extensively by the Veterans Health Administration and the military in battlefield situations. Non-pharmacological approaches to chronic pain management are recommended by state and federal guidelines as the first options for treatment, in combination with pain medication and surgical interventions, when necessary. Today, over 80 medical schools have tracks in Integrative Medicine, and physicians can even receive a Board Certification in Integrative Medicine.  

Unfortunately, for far too many people, a person-centered approach to health and wellness is still either unaffordable, unavailable, or never even considered. With that in mind, we began to look for areas where we could have the greatest impact for the most people with the funds we had left. 

First, we helped to fund a documentary, called Passing On, about the importance of preparing for end of life, and, in some cases, forgoing unwanted medical care. We noticed it was generating large turnouts at screening events. We learned that among a growing population of Americans over 65, only 45% have any sort of advanced care directive in place, and, even when one is completed, health care systems still struggle to meet their end-of-life wishes. The film was eventually picked up nationally by PBS and received the Governor’s Award at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Emmys. Based on that success, we looked for and found synergy among several local organizations, peer funders, and other national coalitions. The result was a collaboration with the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona  to fund the work of over a dozen Grantee Partners and hundreds of individuals to form the Nation’s largest community-based end-of-life care coalition, the Arizona End of Life Care Partnership anchored at the United Way of Tucson and Southern Arizona. The partnership’s mission is to “enhance the way we live by fundamentally changing the way we talk about death.” 

Next, we made a four-year grant to the The Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association (AzHHA) for an initiative called Thoughtful Life Conversations in an effort to use evidence-based communication techniques to remove the barriers to effective end-of-life communication between health care providers and patients. By enabling and emboldening medical providers to have candid conversations with their patients about mortality and the choices they have for their care, which surveys show patients are willing to do, we seek to change the culture around death and dying in health care. We consider it a responsibility for all providers to be equipped to have these conversations, and then ensure that it becomes the “standard of care” for those wishes to be honored in the end.

Another major step forward in this work is that of Health Current. The nonprofit serving as the major repository of Arizona’s health information exchange (HIE), Health Current is working to fulfill a legislative mandate to create a first-of-its-kind, statewide, accessible Advance Healthcare Directives Registry. It will be used in real time by patients, first responders, doctors, emergency departments, specialists and other caregivers, both formal and informal, so that they can access an individual’s advance directives and medical orders and then honor them to the best of their ability.  

Another initiative we are supporting, Whole Health in the States, is organizing six states and Washington D.C. around their ability to provide better access to evidence-based, non-pharmacological treatments for chronic pain in the underserved, including the Medicaid population. There is federal and state guidance to do this, but, for a variety of reasons, patients, especially the underserved, don’t have access to alternative management methods. We believe working at the state-by-state level is the best way to accomplish the goal of improved access to whole health. 

Changing the healthcare system from a fee-for-service, procedure-by-procedure, test-by-test, and institutional-based industry, to a person-centered, value-based, whole-health approach is an enormous effort. But we are starting to see examples, like the guidance from the federal government on treatment of pain, or increased support for palliative care and hospice at end of life, that give us hope for the future. In our final years of grantmaking, we will continue to support initiatives that bring the pieces of the puzzle together to provide integrative health and wellness to everyone. 

We invite you as supporters of Integrative Health and Wellness to explore these and other efforts highlighted on our site to see if they might fit into your own personal or organizational philanthropic goals. 

“Integrative medicine is an approach to care that puts the patient at the center and addresses the full range of physical, emotional, mental, social, spiritual and environmental influences that affect a person’s health.”

The Bravewell Collaborative