Systematic review of the evidence supporting the integration of spirituality in medicine and population health

A thorough review of studies on the role of spirituality in serious illness and health outcomes was published by Balboni, VanderWeele et al. in JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, in July 2022.
The authors synthesize the evidence supporting the integration of spirituality in medicine and population health and make recommendations for doctors and educators accordingly.

“Our findings indicate that attention to spirituality in serious illness and in health should be a vital part of future whole person-centered care, and the results should stimulate more national discussion and progress on how spirituality can be incorporated into this type of value-sensitive care,” said Tracy Balboni, lead author and senior physician at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and professor of radiation oncology at Harvard Medical School.

“Spirituality is important to many patients as they think about their health,” said Tyler VanderWeele, the John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Epidemiology in the Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at Harvard Chan School. “Focusing on spirituality in health care means caring for the whole person, not just their disease.”

“Of 8946 articles identified, 371 articles met inclusion criteria for serious illness; of these, 76.9% had low to moderate risk of bias. The Delphi panel review yielded 8 evidence statements supported by evidence categorized as strong and proposed 3 top-ranked implications of this evidence for serious illness:
(1) incorporate spiritual care into care for patients with serious illness;
(2) incorporate spiritual care education into training of interdisciplinary teams caring for persons with serious illness; and
(3) include specialty practitioners of spiritual care in care of patients with serious illness.
Of 6485 health outcomes articles, 215 met inclusion criteria; of these, 66.0% had low to moderate risk of bias. The Delphi panel review yielded 8 evidence statements supported by evidence categorized as strong and proposed 3 top-ranked implications of this evidence for health outcomes:
(1) incorporate patient-centered and evidence-based approaches regarding associations of spiritual community with improved patient and population health outcomes;
(2) increase awareness among health professionals of evidence for protective health associations of spiritual community; and
(3) recognize spirituality as a social factor associated with health in research, community assessments, and program implementation.”

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