A New Definition of Integrative Health

woman sits with palms together while meditating on a beach

Institute leaders developed a new definition of integrative health in collaboration with the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine.

The definition made its debut in a paper lead-authored by Institute Scholar Claudia Witt, MD, MBA: “Defining Health in a Comprehensive Context: A New Definition of Integrative Health.” The paper was published online last month by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and will appear in an upcoming issue.

The Institute aims to illuminate an important difference between the terms “integrative medicine” and “integrative health,” which are often used interchangeably. While integrative medicine has largely focused on clinical care, integrative health encompasses the full array of health determinants, including social, behavioral, economic, and environmental factors.

“The definition presents a broader vision of what health is and what it should be.  We hope it will facilitate the work of society and practitioners to achieve greater integrative health,” Dr. Witt said.

Produced with input from more than 200 researchers, clinicians, and medical educators, the new definition is:

Integrative health is a state of well-being in body, mind and spirit that reflects aspects of the individual, community, and population. It is affected by 1) individual biological factors and behaviors, social values, and public policy, 2) the physical, social, and economic environment, and 3) an integrative healthcare system that involves the active participation of the individual in the healthcare team in applying a broad spectrum of preventive and therapeutic approaches. Integrative health encourages individuals, social groups, and communities to develop ways of living that promote meaning, resilience and well-being across the life course.

“To see sustainable, wide-spread health improvements, we need to recognize that our work as clinicians doesn’t produce outcomes in isolation. It’s essential to consider the broader context as we pave the way for the future of health,” said Brian Berman, MD, president and founder of the Institute for Integrative Health and director of the University of Maryland Center for Integrative Medicine.

The Institute would like to thank the leaders and members of the Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine and Health and International Society for Complementary Medicine Research for disseminating and participating in the study’s survey.