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CO Explores "Whole Person" Approach to Health

December 27, 2010

DENVER - Colorado is taking the lead in helping the nation get its health care "ACT" together. The program is called Advancing Care Together - also known as ACT - an innovative new experiment to transform the way health care is delivered.

Dr. Larry Green, professor at the University of Colorado, is the ACT program's chief investigator for what he characterizes as a cutting-edge test kitchen, developing best practices which recognize the link between mental well-being and physical health.

"It's time to stop this nonsense of trying to separate people into a mental health bucket or a physical health bucket. It's time to bring these together."

Green says practitioners nationwide will watch ACT's progress as the program begins next year. Its goal is to develop a model medical practitioners can then use to provide integrative health care, where all aspects of a patient's medical, mental and physical health history will be coordinated.

ACT received support from major local and national donors, including the Colorado Health Foundation (CHF). Suzanne Brennan, senior program officer at CHF, says that in the typical health care system, the physical ramifications of a mental health problem such as depression may not be fully evaluated, nor will the mental ramifications of such a condition as chronic pain be.

"The brain is connected to the body. You really need to look at a whole person and evaluate what their health care needs are, if you're really going to help them be better over all."

Mirabel Cifuentes, deputy director with ACT, says it makes sense that this sort of innovative program would develop in Colorado.

"I think it's important to note that Colorado as a state is really a hotbed, a hub if you will, for the advancement of integrative care into whole-person care for people."

Dr. Larry Green says 40 percent of early deaths can be attributed to poor lifestyle choices, choices he hopes ACT will help the medical community better identify and prevent.

Kathleen Ryan, Public News Service - CO