Whole Health in Parts: Omissions from National Data Sets

Popul Health Manag. 2023 Feb;26(1):22-28. doi: 10.1089/pop.2022.0197.


Background: The Whole Health model is a holistic approach to facilitate whole health practices by addressing (1) the physical, mental, and social health of individuals and (2) associated support systems. Several national organizations such as the Institute for Healthcare Improvement's (IHI) Age-Friendly Health Systems (AFHS) movement and, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs have implemented whole health frameworks with many common elements and promoted whole health practice and skills. However, implementing a Whole Health model across communities and health systems will require evidence of effectiveness. Generating evidence on the effectiveness of the Whole Health model's effect on health outcomes requires data-driven intelligence. Methods: We identified the national public-use data sets that are most often used in health research with a machine-assisted literature search of PubMed and Scopus for peer-reviewed journal articles published from 2010 through the end of 2021, including preprints, using Python [3.7]. We then assessed if the 8 most commonly used datasets include variables associated with whole health. Results: The number of publications examining whole health has increased annually in the last decade, with more than 2800 publications in 2020 alone. Since 2010, 24,811 articles have been published using 1 of these data sets. However, we also found a lack of data (ie, data set includes all of the whole health variables) to examine whole health in national data sets. Conclusions: We support a call to expand data collection and standardization of critical measures of whole health.

Keywords: biopsychosocial; health outcomes; person centered; whole health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Delivery of Health Care*
  • Humans