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Natural Awakenings Washington DC Metro

A Holistic Approach to Primary Care

Mar 30, 2017 07:54AM
by Robin Fillmore
Health care is in the forefront of the news lately and one may be wondering what will happen in the future. The last administration dubbed it “Affordable” and now the government is calling health care “American”. But really, isn’t health care between the patient and the doctor and regardless of what it is called, isn’t the quality of care the most important thing?

Integrative physicians take time to get a thorough and detailed picture of the whole person, and their physical and emotional needs. Integrative practitioners must listen to their patients: what are the health concerns? how are you managing those issues? what about stress? Stress plays a big role in the management of chronic and acute disease and emotional well-being. What does the diet look like? Probing questions and appropriate lab testing help the physician get to the root cause of health issues.

This holistic approach to primary care cannot be accomplished in a 20-minute appointment. A patient’s health status is affected by multiple factors, and an understanding of those factors in an initial one-hour appointment will help create a better treatment plan. Treatment options in the holistic primary care model blend traditional care with the best of complementary and alternative therapies from around the world to help the patient achieve optimum wellness, not just freedom from disease. It may include pharmaceuticals, supplementation or therapies to help the patient feel better, but lifestyle and nutritional changes are often necessary to gain the most benefits as one moves toward a better health status.

Dawn Cannon, M.D., M.S., one of the integrative physicians at National Integrated Health Associates (NIHA) suggests, “You are not your problem list, and your diagnoses are labels that usually point to underlying nutritional, assimilation (digestion and metabolism), structural, environmental, genetic, behavioral, physical, hormonal, energetic and/or spiritual issues that will respond, when correctly identified and treated. Finding the root causes of your health issue is a tenet of integrative medicine.”

When moving to a model of care with a holistic practitioner, many people may wonder if they still need a primary care physician. The answer depends on the person and the complexity of their health issues. Some may be fine with a holistic primary care physician, and appreciate the patient-centered model of addressing the whole person. Others may have complex medical issues and it may be more beneficial for the holistic practitioner to work in conjunction with the conventional practitioner in order to coordinate patient care.

Whether one is looking for an annual checkup, managing a chronic disease, improved health status or a better sense of wellness, the patient-centered holistic primary care approach will focus on the whole person, not just the disease or symptoms. The holistic primary care providers will be a partner and guide in helping achieve health goals.

Dawn Cannon, M.D., M.S., is a physician at National Integrated Health Associates (NIHA). She practices integrative medicine: adult primary care and preventive medicine, approached holistically. To learn more about holistic primary care with NIHA, visit


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