The U.S. trails other countries in life expectancy and other measures of good health, and this holds true across all ages and income levels. Too many people, including some of our political leaders, still believe we have the best health care in the world. We have great doctors, state-of-the-art hospitals and are leaders in advanced procedures and pharmaceuticals – yet our health ranks poorly when compared to other countries. What is wrong with this picture?

At God’s Love, our experience has taught us that a major issue with our healthcare system is a basic failure to see the patient as a whole person. When an individual presents at a hospital with an acute issue, that moment in time is pulling on the threads of a much bigger quilt. Our medical system is designed to be very good at treating that emergency, not the surrounding issues that led the person to the hospital and will return them in the future. This is especially true for the millions of Americans (and growing) who are living with chronic and severe illnesses that demand specific maintenance.

The best example of a U.S.-based model that was designed around the whole person and has seen great success is the Ryan White Treatment and Modernization Act, which provides medical care and other services, like housing, food, legal services and transportation, for people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), arguably one of the most high-risk populations in our country. When needs that are critical to medical care are met, and life’s emergencies are held at bay, individuals are poised to remain connected to care and treatment. In fact, food and nutrition services, like the medically tailored meals that God’s Love provides, have proven so critical to the medical care for PLWHA, that HRSA has recognized them as a core medical service.

It would be in our nation’s best interest to take the key learnings from 30 years of caring for PLWHA and apply them to other high-risk populations. Not all people with chronic or severe illness will need such a comprehensive level of support, but the basic value of seeing the patient holistically and understanding that a person’s illness may not be the only crisis in their lives will go a long way to raising our grade.