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New program at Buffalo VA serves patients more holistically

New program at Buffalo VA serves patients more holistically

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The VA's Whole Health program restructures the way health care is provided to patients.

In recent years Veterans Affairs introduced the Whole Health program, which restructures the way health care is provided to patients with a focus on personalized plans instead of disease treatment. Holistic in nature, it asks Veterans and their caregivers to consider what matters to them, not what is the matter with them.

Whole Health begins with an extensive personal health inventory and enrollment in a class called Intro to Whole Health.

Led by a Veteran volunteer, the class introduces Veterans to the tenets and structure of the program. They also examine their daily lives by considering their Circle of Health, which includes everything from mindful awareness and personal relationships to exercise, diet, and sleep. What are they doing to stimulate their brains? How flexible are their bodies? How energetic do they feel? With what frequency are they waking up at night? How are their environments affecting them? What are their main causes of stress?

Once a Veteran completes the initial course, they work with facilitators to determine the best path toward to achieving the goals they’ve set. In addition to more traditional medicine, other forms of care are available through the VA, including acupuncture, yoga and tai chi, as well as mediation, chiropractic care and the use of biofeedback.

The next step is an in-depth class, also taught by a volunteer Veteran facilitator, called Taking Charge of My Life. It’s a comprehensive nine-week curriculum that goes deeper by teaching self-exploration, self-care, and healthy goalsetting.

“I believe most Veterans who aren’t using the VA don’t know they’re eligible; others may not realize how the VA has changed in attitude and added services,” says Marlene Roll, one of the volunteer teachers. “With Whole Health, care is centered on each Veteran’s version of what healthy means to them.”

In 2020, an internal study found that Veterans with chronic pain enrolled in Whole Health were three times more likely to reduce opioid use compared to those who weren’t. Participants also reported improved mental health, better vital signs and test results, and even weight loss, as many take steps toward improving their lives in all the areas that fall within the Circle of Health.

“The program shows Veterans better ways to take care of themselves,” said Lesley Pyjas, R.N., M.S.N., the Whole Health Program Coordinator and Veterans Health Education Coordinator for VA Western New York Healthcare System. “I know these practices work because meditation and mindfulness have helped me.”


The VA Western New York Healthcare System is located at 3495 Bailey Ave. near Main St. in Buffalo. Veterans can also expect free parking and efficient patient check-in.

To learn if you’re eligible or to make an appointment visit va.gov/western-new-york-health-care or call 716-862-8829.

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