This is the second in the CRC for Aboriginal Health's Discussion Paper Series. The concept of Aboriginal holistic health occupies a central position in Aboriginal health policy discourse. This review seeks to establish a definition, and to understand how the concept affects policy, programs and strategy. One hundred and fifty-three publications of the health professional literature that made explicit reference Aboriginal holistic health were reviewed, and a content and thematic analysis was undertaken.
This is the first time that such a critical analysis has been conducted. No definitive written source was found—there are confounding discourses attached to the concept, with no operating framework and with shifting constituent elements. As such, there is an inability to judge health system performance using the concept. This is in part due to many barriers to effective textual and oral transfer into the policy context of Aboriginal concepts. The most significant finding lies in the unfounded perception of holism as immutably Aboriginal. The review also demonstrates how the validity of such concepts can be undermined by poor definition, operationalisation, and conflicting and confounding discourse, and is an important tool for policy makers to gain foundational understanding of the issue.