In a landmark collaboration, Be The Change Yoga and AlcheMe Yoga Therapy have partnered with the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute at UC Irvine Health, in collaboration with Live Healthy OC (LHOC) and Serve The People Community Health Center (STP) to integrate yoga therapy into a primary care setting. Serve The People Community Health Center is a federally qualified health center (FQHC) located in Santa Ana, CA whose staff are committed to providing the most comprehensive array of health services for their community members. In working with the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute, the aim is to bring the integrative model of care to individuals and families in the Santa Ana community, emphasizing a wellness-based approach to health that focuses on prevention, self-care, personal empowerment, and community wellness.
In 2014, a partnership was formed between the Health Funders Partnership of Orange County, the UC Irvine School of Medicine, the Samueli Foundation, the Susan Samueli Center for Integrative Medicine (SSCIM), and the Coalition of Orange County Community Health Centers (Coalition) to launch an initiative to strengthen the healthcare delivery system and improve health outcomes for the underserved. The initiative, Transforming Orange County’s Community Clinic System: Creating True Community Health and Wellness Initiative, supports efforts to transform the model of care within community health centers to focus on prevention and health creation through the implementation of integrative health practices. The initiative, now known as Live Healthy OC, includes a network of seven community health centers throughout Orange County that have received integrative health education, technical assistance, and have implemented integrative health practices to improve population health through wellness-based programs.
In 2017, the Susan Samueli Integrative Health Institute partnered with Serve the People to launch the first clinical site offering naturopathic health services. Led by Dr. Arvin Jenab, Director of the Naturopathic Medicine Services and the ND Residency Program, a team of naturopathic doctors and residents began to see patients in January of 2018 with the vision to collaborate and integrate additional services including Yoga Therapy, Acupuncture, Nutrition and Massage Therapy.
Shortly after the launch of the naturopathic services, the yoga therapists joined the team and began to work closely with patients. AlcheMe Yoga Therapy’s Clinical Supervisor, Megan McCarver is providing patient services, as well as supervising two of the interns, Alexandra Boggio and Jade Lam, who are currently enrolled in AlcheMe’s 850-hour Yoga Therapist Training located at Be The Change Yoga in Irvine, CA. Kate Allen is overseeing the program as the Yoga Therapy School Director and Public Health Advisor.
This innovative application utilizes a paired visit model, in which patients see a Medical Assistant who measures heart rate and blood pressure then refers the patient to the yoga therapist. The certified yoga therapist or intern conducts a patient assessment, identifies patient goals and then develops a customized yoga therapy practice to address the patient’s symptoms.
A therapeutic plan will include specific applications of yoga postures, breathwork, meditation and lifestyle practices that are tailored to the patients needs. The patient will be given a home exercise program and will schedule a follow-up appointment to measure progress and refine the yoga therapy practice. After the yoga therapy session, the MA joins the yoga therapist and patient, to re-check patient vitals and discuss the implementation of the home exercise program to reinforce the patient’s wellness plan.
The yoga therapists reconvene with the integrative team at the end of the shift to discuss the patient’s progress, collaborate, and assess the need for referrals.
In piloting this innovative approach to wellness-care, the aim is to develop best practices that can be replicated through numerous clinics in Orange County and beyond. It is truly an exciting time for yoga therapy and the field of integrative medicine as a whole. As this example shows, it takes continued effort on the part of numerous organizations to break the mold and bring something extraordinary to life!