What is holistic health? The word holistic has been so used and abused that people have different perceptions of the meaning of the word.

Even doctors misunderstand its implications.

The word holistic is derived from the Greek word meaning whole. A holistic approach, therefore, means addressing the whole person, in mind, body and spirit, their interaction with society and the environment. It has nothing to do with implications of holiness or religion.

I often get asked if holistic treatment involves the laying on of hands, or whether it is anything to do with homeopathy. But holistic does not mean alternative medicine.

It means a rational approach to the welfare and health care of our whole being and of society. When we try and restore balance in our lives by addressing the wider issues relating to our health and personal and social conduct, we become more holistic.

Taking a holistic approach to heath can include eating a wholesome, organic diet, developing wholesome behaviour in one's personal and social life and inner spiritual strength and using relevant, safe treatments including surgery, medicine and complementary medicines.

It can also involve using effective communication and working towards a non-threatening, supportive, safe and caring community and participating in mutually supportive networks and community projects. This is all holistic.

The British Holistic Medical Association (BHMA) is a national organisation which has pioneered much progressive work in the area of holistic health and offers a balanced view on the subject.

Readers interested in gaining more authoritative knowledge and guidance in the field may find it worthwhile to read the Holistic Health publication or joining the BHMA (formed in 1983 in London and now based in Hove).

Members are medical professionals and those who care about the future of health-care and want to adopt a more holistic approach in their lives. Contact the BHMA on 01273 725951.

If we are to reduce stress levels and associated rates of illness, we need to take a fresh look at how we live and the culture we have created around ourselves.

This is where a holistic approach is so important