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TALKBACK everyone’s talking about . . . Medical Wellness

medical wellness T

Should the industry now be delivering medical wellness? Do we really want to embrace this change, what will it involve and will consumers go for it?

he medics are physiological experts, yet few habitually prescribe exercise – even though, in many cases, it can

be more effective than drugs. In my own personal experience,

the chasm between GP and gym can lead to patients falling between two stools. When I found out I had high blood pressure, the first reaction of the doctor was to prescribe drugs; exercise wasn’t even mentioned. When the medication caused side-effects and I wanted to manage my blood pressure through exercise alone, he seemed surprised but pleased. However, the gym was nervous about this and wanted

to refer me back to my doctor, which I knew would be pointless. I therefore had to take responsibility myself. But many people wouldn’t be comfortable with this; it would be more reassuring if the two sides were somehow joined-up. So can the fi tness industry move

closer to the medical profession and bridge this gap? Many experts claim that it must, it can, and indeed that it is starting to do so (see below). Nick Burrows, former MD of Nuffi eld

Health, Fitness and Wellbeing – now chair of leisure brand creation business Brand Spirit – is convinced his former company will be successful in delivering medical wellness, due to highly trained

staff and genuine medical credentials. However, he is unsure whether the sector as a whole can do this. Burrows argues that the wider industry must realise that delivering medical wellness involves much more than marginal upskilling. He also questions whether consumers in some markets actually want to see their club change from a social space to a more medical one. Would moving in this direction put

pressure on the bottom line? Cause liability issues? Take the fun out of the club? Or is it important for the industry to break out of being mainly cosmetic and start to really impact on the nation’s health? We ask the experts.


dr john searle fia • chief medical officer

question is, does it want to? I think there are three areas to get


involved with. Firstly, using exercise as part of the management of chronic diseases. To this end, I chair a group from the fitness sector and the medical Royal Colleges. We’re producing

professional and operational standards in the area of working with patients. These will be completed in the autumn. Secondly, we should be helping people to have an independent

and healthy old age. We have the product and a growing market, but currently only 5 per cent of members are over the age of 65. Are gyms really interested in working with older people? Finally, are we going to be more imaginative and creative in

our bid to attract more people to our gyms and promote the benefits of activity for health within the general population? Encouragingly, some gyms are now starting to reach out in this way, by running sessions in community halls, for example. One barrier is our customer care issue. To move into

medical wellness, members can’t be left to their own devices – staff would always need to be on-hand for support.

bsolutely the industry can deliver medical wellness. The

niki keene director international wellness • curves

The health service doesn’t have the resources to deliver everything and GPs don’t understand exercise. First of all we need to define and


agree on what we mean by medical wellness. Is it increasing activity levels? Improving health and moving people

from illness to wellness? Or is it preventing illness and disease? Each aspect takes different skills and I don’t believe that currently many organisations could effectively deliver on all parts, but many could and do already support some elements. Robust reporting and feedback to health bodies and the

government, with evidence of an increase in activity and health improvement, will be critical to our impact. Common measures, such as waist circumference and BMI, must be identified. The industry will need to understand audit and evaluation:

demonstrating evidence, measuring outcomes and feedback data, proving adherence to clinical guidelines and value for money for fitness prescriptions. Few clubs can currently give a health outcome-focused summary – one of many standards to be achieved. But I’m sure we can make it happen. We have to!

” 26 Read Health Club Management online april 2011 © cybertrek 2011

here is no doubt that we should be delivering medical wellness.

kath hudson • journalist • health club management

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