The Institute for Holistic Health Studies

A National Model - Holistic Health Studies in Higher Education


Core Holistic Health Studies Competencies

Tai ChiUpon completing a program of study it is expected that students will have a body of knowledge and skills useful for promoting and sustaining health from a holistic perspective. To this end the following Core Competencies are provided as guiding principles for individual courses, the curriculum, and the evolving field of Holistic Health Studies.



1. Apply a holistic perspective, including cross-cultural, interdisciplinary, and humanistic views, to describe and analyze contemporary health issues.

2. Demonstrate knowledge of holistic health practices related to personal growth and self-actualization, stress management, mind-body methods, nutrition and natural healing, movement and body-based practices, energy medicine, consciousness and spirituality, and traditional/whole medicine systems.

3. Lead by example, applying holistic health principles and practices in one’s own life thereby enhancing health in personal and professional settings.

4. Apply critical thinking skills for understanding, practicing, and promoting holistic health, including effective information acquisition, use of evidence-based literature, and analysis and evaluation of holistic and conventional health concepts and practices.

5. Describe creative and effective problem solving and decision-making strategies useful for managing and transforming personal and community health issues.

6. Demonstrate knowledge of effective written, oral and visual communication for conveying health information, advancing positive social change, transforming conflict (individual and group), and promoting global citizenship/activism.

7. Describe media literacy concepts and demonstrate ability to access, analyze and evaluate media information relevant to holistic health from diverse sources.

8. Recognize inequities in the world, and describe methods to promote social justice and interpersonal respect across diverse cultures and traditions.

9. Describe holistic health concepts and practices relevant to addressing ecological and environmental health problems.

10. Describe core concepts and practices from the world’s spiritual traditions and contemporary consciousness studies relevant to personal health and ethical development.


Related Publications

Burke A, Peper E, Burrows K, Kline B. Developing the complementary and alternative medicine education infrastructure: baccalaureate programs in the United States. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 10(6), 1115-21, 2004.

Gaster B, Unterborn JN, Scott RB, Schneeweiss R. What should students learn about complementary and alternative medicine? Academic Medicine, 82(10), 934-8, 2007.

OBJECTIVES: Efforts to build a complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) education and research infrastructure have been productive. Development has focused largely on graduate, postgraduate, and professional level training. This paper examines baccalaureate programs, looking at the prevalence and characteristics of CAM and holistic health training in the United States.
DESIGN: A comprehensive literature and web site search was conducted to find educational institutions offering baccalaureate programs in CAM or holistic health. Search criteria included accredited undergraduate programs terminating in a minor, an AA, or a BA/BS degree.
RESULTS: A search of health and education databases produced marginal results. Internet searches, by contrast, were very productive in locating CAM or holistic health-related programs generally and baccalaureate programs specifically. The most effective search strings included terms such as "holistic health," "minor," "certificate," and "undergraduate." Using these terms, 5 programs were found in the United States that met the inclusion criteria: Arizona State University East, Bastyr University, San Francisco State University, Metropolitan State College of Denver, and Georgian Court College.
CONCLUSIONS: Preparing tomorrow's scholars and clinicians to contribute meaningfully to this emerging healthcare paradigm will require a plan that integrates all elements of higher education. The creation of a truly effective workforce of CAM-competent M.D.s, nurses, health educators, pharmacists, and other allied health professionals will increasingly necessitate baccalaureate preparation. Curriculum discussions at the campus, state, and national levels are needed.

Burke A. Characteristics of college students enrolled in an alternative health/ complementary and alternative medicine course: a cross-sectional comparison. Explore: the Journal of Science and Healing, 5(1), 45-50, 2009.

Burke A, Ginzburg D, Trachtenberg D, Collie K, Muhammad M. Exploring the role of CAM in public health practice and training. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 11(5), 931-936, 2005.

Chaterji R, Tractenberg RE, Amri H, Lumpkin M, Amorosi SB, Haramati A. A large-sample survey of first- and second-year medical student attitudes toward complementary and alternative medicine in the curriculum and in practice. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 13(1), 30-35, 2007.

Ellis-Sankari J. Higher education as an alternative point of access to holistic health. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15(5), 601-607, 2009.

Fenton MV, Morris DL. The integration of holistic nursing practices and complementary and alternative modalities into curricula of schools of nursing. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 9(4), 62-7, 2003.

Lee MY, Benn R, Wimsatt L, Cornman J, Hedgecock J, Gerik S, Zeller J, Kreitzer MJ, Allweiss P, Finklestein C, Haramati A. Integrating complementary and alternative medicine instruction into health professions education: organizational and instructional strategies. Academic Medicine, 82(10), 939-45, 2007.

Maizes V, Schneider C, Bell I, Weil A. Integrative medical education: development and implementation of a comprehensive curriculum at the University of Arizona. Academic Medicine, 77(9), 851-860, 2002.

Nedrow AR, Istvan J, Haas M, Barrett R, Salveson C, Moore G, Hammerschlag R, Keenan E. Implications for education in complementary and alternative medicine: a survey of entry attitudes in students at five health professional schools. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,13(3), 381-386, 2007.

Rakel DP, Guerrera MP, Bayles BP, Desai GJ, Ferrara E. CAM education: promoting a salutogenic focus in health care. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14(1), 87-93, 2008.

Sierpina VS, Kreitzer MJ. Innovations in integrative healthcare education: mind-body medicine training. Explore: the Journal of Science and Healing, 1(5), 402-404, 2005.


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