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Road to Wellville 

Hospitals and clinics move toward a preventative model of wellness

click to enlarge THIS AIN'T 'E.R.' Increasingly, hospitals are offering yoga, acupuncture, tai chi and more.
  • THIS AIN'T 'E.R.' Increasingly, hospitals are offering yoga, acupuncture, tai chi and more.

When was the last time you went to the hospital for yoga?

Though the hospital setting tends to go hand in hand more with illness, surgery and trauma care, recent developments in the healthcare industry signal a dramatic shift in the way that hospitals and healthcare clinics approach the treatment of chronic disease. Namely, moving increasingly toward prevention and wellness—including programs for acupuncture, dance classes, tai chi and, yes, yoga.

Such a shift couldn't come at a better time for the United States. According to new report by the National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine, Americans live shorter lives and experience more injuries and illnesses than those in comparable high-income nations. In terms of life expectancy, the United States ranks at or near the bottom of a list of 17 countries.

"If we're able to educate people and the public, we're going to have a healthier community, and that's best for everyone," explains Dr. Marko Bodor, medical director at the Synergy Medical-Fitness Center in Napa. Located on the campus of the Queen of the Valley Medical Center, Synergy opened its doors in 2006. Utilized by both patients and fee-paying members of the public, the facility emphasizes the five aspects of wellness: exercise, nutrition, sleep, psycho-social and spiritual well-being and, of course, prevention, says Bodor.

With its pool, dance classes, nutritionists, cardio and strength-training equipment, Synergy may look like a gym, but it goes beyond your standard 24 Hour Fitness, offering a breast and mammography center, a cardiac rehab facility, public talks on health and nutrition and an integrative health center.

"Medicine for centuries was pretty much acute or terminal care. When you absolutely needed to see a doctor, you saw one," says Bodor. "We're definitely seeing a transformation in the way we treat things." Because of healthcare reform, organizations will be more accountable for their outcomes, and prevention will become much more essential, he adds.

By 2015, Santa Rosa may get its own medical-fitness center. A zoning amendment approved on Dec. 4 by the Santa Rosa City Council has opened the doors for the construction of a facility to be integrated with Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital. It's part of an overarching goal of promoting wellness, preventative care and physical activity, says Katy Hillenmeyer, a spokesperson for the St. Joseph Health System.

"Healthcare reform has provisions in it to minimize readmissions to the hospital for people with chronic illness," she adds. "Anything we can do for the health of our neighbors outside of the hospital helps in combating chronic disease, and helps keep people healthy so that they don't necessarily end up in an acute care hospital."

The shift toward a preventative model can be traced to two sources. The first is a change in public health needs. Infectious diseases, a cause for concern a hundred years ago, have been replaced with chronic disease from poor lifestyle choices. The second is the passing of the Affordable Care Act in 2010, which allows for the creation of a prevention and public health fund, along with the issuance of community transformation grants to help promote healthy lifestyle choices in every community.

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