The Association for Holistic Health: A Historical Perspective

Interview with JoAnn Axton, RN, past President and founding member of the AHH, by Gail Seymour, MSA, Communications Vice-President, AHH, dated 2-16-03.

© AHH logo and articles. All rights reserved.

"In 1975 we had a conference called The Physician of the Future where the 900 participants designed a model holistic health center. I did an item analysis of the responses, and although there were innovative techniques and modalities, we hadn't bothered to define what the well person is or what the end result was to be. So I became interested in what the well person was and is - body, mind and spirit. I also became interested in what the difference was between holistic and traditional medicine and what the role of a holistic practitioner vs. a traditional physician would be."

Chronicle of Holistic Health:
The Foundation for Healthcare of the Future

Nine soft cover journals; 108 articles in all, containing the wisdom of the forefathers of holistic health. Transcriptions of keynote addresses of the (now) most famous healthcare professionals in the world, delivered at nine annual conferences held at the beginning of the holistic health movement in the USA. Produced by the Association for Holistic Health. Supplies are very limited; set is a collector's item.

"Basically, with traditional (medicine), I would go to my doctor on Friday, I would check my body in and I would say, "Give me a lube job and I'll be back to pick it up on Monday." With holistic (medicine), a doctor is a resource. I might go to the doctor and he would say, "You're obese and you'll die if you don't get on a diet and lose some weight." And I can then say, "I don't want to go on a diet." And that's that. Or I can ask for his assistance in terms of knowledge, awareness or skill building. He might, for example, tell me that the research shows that a vegetarian diet for children doesn't produce as healthy a child as having a small amount of fish and chicken in the diet every month. He might refer me to a support group where I could gain some skills in eating healthy and understanding the motivators that stand in the way of me developing a healthy body for myself - the pros and the cons.

Holistic health is more than prevention.
It's also growth and achieving one's optimal
or peak performance, moving from ego
status, where we are today, to ego ideal,
where we would like to be.

  • It's about values and having our values and our behaviors match up. This is part of the spiritual aspect.
  • It's about physical detoxification and alimentation.
  • It's about assessment. In fact, my business card had a stethoscope for the Heath Optimizing Institute as a symbol of the importance of proper assessment.
  • It's based upon doing sound research, contrary to what some people have attributed to holistic health, to find the least invasive way to achieve the most optimum results.
  • It's directed toward maintaining and improving existing health or wellness. The emphasis is on health vs. disease.
  • It emphasizes the need for prevention to increase the need for crisis intervention.
  • It's concerned with the individual as a dynamic changing being desirous of growth.
  • It's also concerned with healing and restoration to a state of balance. For example, research that I did for my doctorate in biorhythms show that our bodies are involved with a flow. Circadian rhythms are entrained to 24 hours. If a person were to "free flow", one individual's rhythms might be every 28 hours and another's might be every 20 hours. Research has shown that it's not light vs. dark or activity vs. rest that entrains us to 24 hours - it's socialization. One person's rhythms are compacted, another person's are expanded. 17-hydroxy corticosteroid levels typically begin to rise at 3 AM in a person and peak at 6 AM, meaning they would be a good surgical risk for 7 AM surgery, since their body would then be at its peak physiologically. If, however, your 17-hydroxy corticosteroid levels didn't peak until 9 AM, you might be better off working the 9 AM to 6 PM shift, or even an evening shift, when your alertness level and your physical performance level would be at their peak. Hormones and enzymes within our bodies flow and ebb with the time of day. Why is this important? Scientists tested mice with toxic doses of medicine and found that if the medicine were given at one time of day they would die. But if it was given at another time of day, they might get sick but they wouldn't die. Likewise, if a food, nutrient or drug is adjusted to the time of day, it can be more fully utilized in a beneficial or less toxic way to the body. Temperature, for example, normally thought to be normal at 98.6 degrees actually fluctuates normally during the day with a low around 4 AM (the time when one is more apt to make errors in judgment) and peaks at 4 PM, with variations in between. Therefore, holistic health recognizes that health is on a continuum and is a matter of balance. It is a process of harmonizing, synthesizing, integrating, incorporating, detoxifying, and vitalizing and is concerned with this restoration to a state of balance.
  • It identifies the holistic health practitioner as a client resource - providing information, skill and awareness experiences to the client primarily - and as a healthcare deliverer secondarily. It respects free agency, the right of individuals to make their own choices, be they enhancing or non-enhancing. It encourages the individual to assume responsibility for his choices.
  • It respects individuality: the right of the individual to grow at his own pace and to have his own awareness, values, attitudes and behaviors. Environment, lifestyle, social responsibility and relationships are taken into consideration when creating optimum health.
  • Holistic health promotes positive attitudes, including love, harmony, responsibility, self-acceptance, forgiveness, healing, growth and a sense of meaning and purpose.
  • It's open to a variety of methods for finding the highest level at which balance can be restored, utilizing traditional and intuitive methods. It recognizes what works.
  • It is more interested in the correction of causal factors of imbalance than in symptoms amelioration (elimination). While it does not rule out the use of surgical intervention and medication, preference is given to the most natural and gentle forms of healing available, after evaluating time and effectiveness factors.
  • It is systematic in approach. The practice of holistic health includes a comprehensive assessment and diagnosis of states of balance and imbalance, strengths and weaknesses, a goal oriented plan and evaluation of results in terms of effectiveness.
  • It believes in utilization of scientific research to more fully test out, evaluate and substantiate or invalidate new approaches that appear to be working.
  • It is democratic and tolerant, rather than authoritarian. It respects free expression. It is open to a variety of approaches and methods. It utilizes the group process. Example: The techniques and modalities that were utilized in the above-referenced conference by the 900 participants will continually be expanding. They're only limited to the creativity and further research of mankind. There will always be new and better ways of doing things.
  • It also means that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If, for example, you build a team to accomplish wealth, the input of all the participants as a group would expand upon the input of each individual and would encourage group members, expand awareness, motivate, and in the end, achievement would be greater for the group than for any one individual operating totally on his or her own. A word of caution, however: The quality circles advocated in Japan, which are achieved by building group consensus, tend to stifle individual creativity in favor of a mediocre group consensus.
  • Holistic health recognizes unique talents and ideas that often rise above group consensus. The holistic health practitioner does not see himself as a complete self-contained resource center, but rather believes in integration, synthesis, coordination and cooperation.
  • The giving of loving care and concern is the basis of delivering holistic health care.
  • The results of holistic health is an even higher expression of potential, fulfillment and joy.

As a result of the initial conference in 1975, the Association for Holistic Health, a non-profit organization, was formed. AHH conducted annual conferences for the next 10-plus years, utilizing experts, nationally and internationally, and studying the movement throughout the world. AHH's education committee, of which I was chairperson, wrote the first core curriculum in holistic health, which later found itself in the medical schools. Health Optimizing Institutes were created with the emphasis on such areas as anti-aging and encouraging individuals to tailor their wellness programs to their individual needs and desires in terms of diagnostic tools, food supplement and nutrients. Example: one can now obtain a CAT scan, MRI or any number of diagnostic tests, without a physician referral, from any number of centers at reasonable prices, and have these interpreted by a physician practicing holistically.

Things have changed drastically since the 70s. Most physicians pride themselves on implementing many of these holistic practices within their care delivery. In addition, modern science now has enabled us to make major headways in disease exploration, including mapping the human genome. One can now look more closely at the DNA construction of the particular individual and locate gene placement that may by altered to prevent or correct disease or to foster wellness and health.

My wish list includes the following: (1) I would like to see a user-friendly format for research results in which the layperson would be able to assess the validity and results of a particular study, and (2) that these studies would be compiled in a meaningful way under the disease entities i.e., cancer, stroke, arthritis, etc. that they address. (3) I would like to see the public have access to these key individuals, with detailed information about what their approaches entail in terms of performance (what is required of their clients in terms of a program for recovery and wellness), costs, geographic locations of these various treatment programs and the results (mortality, cures, problems encountered, good documentation). Some of these programs are in the US and are being considered for substantial grants. Others are international.

In the mid-80s the Health Optimizing Institute attempted to establish a destination resort hotel, conference center and Health Optimizing Institute in New Zealand. Unfortunately, the project lacked sufficient funding and never materialized. The time is now ripe for this to take place, not in New Zealand but in Portugal, where potential funding is already in place. (This will be elaborated upon in a later interview). Transformation 2000, a project of the Health Optimizing Institute, was developed as a bridge to the future by AHH. Its goal is international cooperation in addressing global concerns such as environmental issues, health care, education, producing nutritional food and providing for basic needs of the world inhabitants, the sharing of scientific discovery, space exploration and sharing of culture. One project entails addressing the three actions that would make the biggest impact for good in each area, coordinating efforts worldwide of such magnitude that there would be project completion.

Moving from international scope to domestic within the boundaries of our own country, there is currently a movement to establish centers in key cities with each center developing its unique focus. For example, the center Palm Beach County, Florida plans to focus on a model for developing community within a transient area. Other major cities also under consideration are Boston and Atlanta. An obtainable goal is to have a center in each county of each state in the United States within the next five years.

As you can see, holistic health is a dynamic growing entity that encompasses both individual society and the world as a whole. It involves physical well being as well as mental, emotional, spiritual, societal and environmental well being. It invites all who would wish to make a contribution to step forward."

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The AHH: A Historical Perspective - Part II


Robin Lim; Bali, Indonesia. Grand price winner, 2012 CNN Hero of the Year.

Robin Lim: CNN's top honoree at the Heroe's Award Ceremony   Robin Lim with baby © 2013

Robin is in the middle of the photo above, and in black and white to the right.

I visited Bali in 2009 with David Harris, founder of the Association for Holistic Health. David and I met with and had lunch with Robin Lim, a midwife, and her family. Robin was instrumental in creating a birthing center in Ubud, in the center of the island of Bali, Indonesia, best known for being the hub of the arts: painting, wood carving, batik fabric design, weaving and more. It took her ten years to raise the funds to build the birthing center. Their new center, built with the funds from the CNN award, is under construction. Robin asked me to donate my time doing hands on healing, to correct spinal misalignments, at the birthing center the next time I visit Bali, which I hope will be soon. To read about Robin Lim on CNN's web site, click here. Robin's photo (center), taken with her husband (right), and her mother (left), who lives in the Philipines, is pictured above. Her husband, who I met briefly, is a videographer for the Jacques Cousteau Society, Greenpeace, and various international "save the planet" types of nonprofit organizations. Their clothing is made of cotton batik fabric made in Bali, which my company uses exclusively to make aromatherapy eye pillows and unisex robes. If you are a healthcare practitioner, a lightworker, or someone who would like to make a difference while visiting Bali, to contact Robin Lim, please write to us, and if appropriate, we will forward your email to Robin. To support her cause, order her poetry book, The Geometry of Splitting Souls, from To read the Bumi Sehat 2013 Annual Field Report, click here.

The Association for Holistic Health (AAH): A Historical Perspective - Part II

The Foundation of the Healthcare of the Future - An interview with David J. Harris, Founder AHH - Holistic Life Magazine - Fall, 1981

© AHH logo and articles. All rights reserved.

In the early 70s, David Harris, a graduate of the University of Southern California, founder of the Association for Holistic Health, The Mandala Society, and cofounder of The Center for the Exploration of Human Potential recognized a profound specialization in the people-helping professions that divided the individual person into fragmented body, mind and spirit. The prevailing thought at the time was that specialization was necessary to provide better care for the patient and economic survival for the practitioner. Body, mind and spirit each had a specialty - many times with subspecialties, with little or no overlap. David Harris' concept was that we could integrate the specializations in those three areas and work with the whole person. He felt that practitioners in the people-helping professions should meet and share ideas. To this end he organized the first Mandala Holistic Health Conference in 1976.

"Over the years, Mandala's annual holistic health conferences have chronicled the evolution of the holistic health movement by presenting a different program of speakers each year who are leaders in a variety of alternative healing programs. It's hardly by chance that it has grown to be a major catalytic force in the remaking of ourselves and our collapsing institutions.

Mandala's guest list reads like a Who's Who in holistic health. Names like Hans Selye, Norman Cousins and Emanuel Cheraskin - some of the big guns dedicated to taking the reins of change in the status quo of traditional medical care which has become so wildly expensive it's nearly out of reach for most of us. They are just a few of many in a growing number of health professionals who feel we are not pawns or victims in our society but instead are capable of imagination, invention and experiences we have only begun to tap on the road to our solutions.

As Marilyn Ferguson says in her book The Aquarian Conspiracy, "The potential for rescue at this time of crisis is neither luck, coincidence, nor wishful thinking. Armed with a more sophisticated understanding of how change occurs, we know that the very forces that have brought us to planetary brinksmanship carry in them the seeds of renewal. The current disequilibrium - personal and social - foreshadows a new kind of society. Roles, relationships, institutions and old ideas are being reexamined, formulated, redesigned."

According to Harris, "The reality of what holistic health truly is keeps traditional practitioners from getting into it. I believe that a health professional, to be really responsible, has to be moving towards and evolving a holistic practice. We can't continue to treat just the disease, we have to treat the whole person. For instance, now, when a patient comes in for help, all the practitioner provides is his or her specialty, rather than providing what the person needs. The ideal situation at a holistic health clinic would be where there is equal emphasis given to the body, mind and spirit, and it is given in a way that is integrated. This process of integrating the best that is available in psychological care, spiritual healing and physical care, providing them in the way that ties into the belief system of the individual should be the goal.

Up to this point we have stayed away from the general public knowing what we're doing because our work has basically been to help health professionals make the transition from traditional health care to holistic health care. When we first started (our conferences), the concept was to have holistic health and to make it available. Now there are two ways to go: to educate the general public so that they start demanding it from their health professionals, or we can educate the health professionals so they start providing it. We felt the more responsible way was to get the concept out to the health professionals, to help them get ready for what will eventually be demanded as people become more aware. Now we feel that it's time for the general public to know about holistic health and to start demanding it from the professionals they go to. It's the wave of the future for health care. It doesn't matter what we call it. We are going to have to shift from crisis care to health optimization if for no other reason than economics, which will force us to make the change."

Chronicle of Holistic Health:
The Foundation of the Healthcare of the Future

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