Committing to Whole Health

Elevance Health's Shantanu Agrawal, MD, Chief Health Officer, and Felicia Norwood, EVP and President of Government Business Division, discuss how we're partnering with care providers to advance whole health.

Why Should We All Commit to Whole Health?

The way Elevance Health defines health is evolving. With 80% of a person's health driven by what happens outside the doctor's office,* health is no longer just about receiving treatments and tests; we believe it's about caring for the whole person.

Our broader, whole-health view — created and driven by medical, pharmacy, social, and behavioral factors that influence health — helps achieve better outcomes. The case for a broader definition is well-documented, but the overall healthcare system remains organized around a narrower definition of health.

That's why we are working to create a better system — one that supports the whole health of the people we serve. Such a focus is critical to improve access to care, raise value, raise quality, coordinate care, and address affordability. It is what differentiates us — and our care provider partners.

We focus on the most pressing opportunities by recognizing inequities and understanding our consumers' clinical and social needs relative to a broader population. Our Whole Health Index enables us to take action, including deploying strategies, programs, and interventions aimed at the right consumers; identifying evidence-based solutions; improving decision-making; and driving quality improvement, step by step, hand in hand, with our care provider partners.


of a person's health is driven by what happens outside the doctor's office

Advancing Whole Health

By integrating the drivers of a person's health, we see a bigger picture. When we share that knowledge and data beyond doctors and hospitals to include all care providers, they can address needs more holistically and see a person's whole health.

The traditional healthcare system fragments care by focusing on a particular disease, diagnosis, or condition. We purposefully swim against that approach, proactively integrating our capabilities to create a holistic view. This enables care providers to determine how to help an individual most effectively. That may mean leveraging not only traditional healthcare and medications but community and home-based services based on an understanding of a person's specific needs.

When we consider each person's full experience, we go beyond treating a disease, diagnosis, or condition to help them achieve optimal health.

Drivers of Whole Health

It's important to keep in mind that these social, physical, and behavioral drivers can overlap and impact each other. To achieve optimal health, we must address what drives health:

Physical drivers

  • Functional status
  • Physical well-being
  • Body systems

Social drivers

  • Housing and transportation
  • Food and nutrition
  • Income
  • Health literacy and accessible care (affordable, free from bias)
  • Loneliness and isolation

Behavioral drivers

  • Psychological factors, such as mental health and substance use disorders
  • Reactions to external factors

The Need for Health Equity

Our work to improve whole health is anchored in the need to advance health equity — when everyone has a fair and just opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Health equity is not a product or vertical line of service. We believe we must proactively design for the outcome we want to achieve — health equity — and, as such, it must be embedded and reflected in all that we do across all of our lines of business, including our processes, practices, programs, and products.

More specifically, our strategic approach, termed "health equity by design," is a personalized and intentional approach to ensure that all people, regardless of race or ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, and geographic or financial access, can receive individualized care. It's about optimizing health at the individual level for all.

We know that our customers — the businesses, states, and individuals we serve — are invested in advancing health equity as well.

Measuring Whole Health

Data and technology allow us to understand whole health, personalize healthcare, and empower people — all of which help improve individual health and advance equity. In fact, we developed the Whole Health Index (WHI) to understand individual needs better to best support and improve an individual's health.

This index takes an integrated approach that considers the physical, behavioral, and social drivers of care to assess an individual's overall health, identify opportunities to address different health status drivers, and advance efforts within the care delivery ecosystem to improve the whole health of our consumers and communities.

Forward Together

Achieving real whole health — at the individual and societal level — requires immense commitment and sustained collaboration between care providers, employers, government leaders, and payers alike.

At Elevance Health, partnering with care providers to address whole health and its drivers is the hallmark of our business strategy. To get there, we are:

  • Contracting for outcomes.
  • Collaborating for success.
  • Connecting for health.

Advancing health is only possible by working together.

*U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Community Health and Economic Prosperity: The Problem, the Causes, the Opportunities, and the Solutions—At a Glance (January 2021): hhs.gov/sites/default/files/chep-sgr-at-a-glance.pdf.