Manitoba's department of Healthy Living, Seniors and Consumer Affairs has released what it says is Canada's first spiritual health care strategic plan.
Minister Jim Rondeau said the plan, entitled Health and the Human Spirit, "will promote opportunities for Manitobans to experience spiritual health through better awareness, understanding and healing." Rondeau made the announcement Sept. 20 at the Hospice and Palliative Care Manitoba conference in Winnipeg.
The four-year strategy was developed in sessions involving a range of community and professional stakeholders, including spiritual care providers, volunteers, counsellors, physicians, psychiatrists, policy analysts, and individuals who have experienced spiritual care in a health care context, the minister said.
Rondeau said research has shown that higher levels of spiritual well-being, along with a sense of inner meaning and inner peace, are associated with better health outcomes, lower levels of depression and anxiety and a better quality of life.
Father Vince Herner, chair of the Manitoba Multifaith Council and director of spiritual care at the Misericordia Health Centre, said Manitoba "has taken an important step forward with the release of this plan. It sets out a vision and goals for Manitoba and recognizes the increasing awareness that spirituality is an important part of human wellness."
The plan builds on the province's previous strategies for spiritual health care, including a province-wide spiritual health care volunteer education course called the Spirit of Caring, core competencies for spiritual health care practitioners and the incorporation of traditional Aboriginal healing spaces at a number of health facilities across the province.
The new document states that there is a growing awareness that spirituality, or the way a person searches for and finds meaning, "is part of human wellness and spiritual health care must become part of health care theory and practice."
It quotes from English authors Mark Cobb and Vanessa Robshaw's 1998 book, The Spiritual Challenge of Health Care, which concludes, "there is what many people recognize as a spiritual quality to life, which, in suffering, confronts people with questions and possibilities that reach beyond the immediate dilemmas of physical insult." Also in 1998, the World Health Organization endorsed a proposal to include the word "spiritual" in its description of overall health.
Health and the Human Spirit states that the connections between spiritual beliefs, practices, and mental and physical health "are a growing area of research that is finding its way into practice. The discipline of spiritual health care brings together our thinking, beliefs, behaviour and culture to address the many ways human beings seek to be well in body, mind, relationships and soul."
Research conducted by doctors at the Mayo Clinic in 2001 and published in Religious involvement, spirituality and medicine: Implications for clinical practice, demonstrated that positive religious involvement and positive spiritual understanding "are closely linked with better health outcomes and longer life expectancy."
According to Health and the Human Spirit, in terms of mental health, research has found that "higher levels of spiritual well-being, a sense of inner meaning and peace were associated with lower levels of measured depression and anxiety." A 2006 study on HIV patients performed at the University of Miami, found "there is an increase in spirituality and religiousness after HIV diagnosis and this increase predicts slower disease progression."
The authors of Health and the Human Spirit conclude that the four-year strategic plan "enables new understanding, relationships, connections, and directions for health care providers to offer quality care based on leading practice."
A copy of the spiritual health-care strategic plan is available at the Province of Manitoba's website under Healthy Living.