Spas, Wellness Centres and the Challenge of Fighting Conventionalism in the Health Industry


In this blog, we have extensively talked about the potential benefits that spas and wellness centres can obtain from building different synergies within the health industry. Although we firmly believe this is a promising business opportunity, and one we should definitely try to embrace as an industry, we also know the construction of those synergies is subject to a series of obstacles and different mindsets.

In spite of the current crisis of healthcare systems around the world and the potential benefits that innovative and preventive models can provide to the health industry as a whole, several actors in the health field are not still seduced by the idea of changing the traditional ways in which healthcare is delivered to people.


Conventional Views and Economic Interests

Just recently, Spa Business Blog editor Liz Terry wrote an interesting piece entitled The Wellness Challenge. As the title suggests, Terry touches various issues regarding the main obstacles that our industry faces today in terms of getting involved with the health industry.

Her article, which is based on the things she heard at the last TEDMED conference in Washington DC, offers mixed conclusions. On the negative side, Terry was shocked to realize that several actors in the healthcare field still favour their economic interests and traditional views over things like prevention and helping people to change their lifestyles.

As stated by Terry, “for drug companies and some parts of the medical profession, it appears that the optimal outcome is large numbers of people who are well enough to stay alive for long periods of time, but sick enough to need constant medication, so they’re effectively being farmed for profit.”

As a result, Terry argues that the wellness industry is in competition with conventional medicine. Although this is probably the biggest obstacle the spa and wellness industries need to overcome, Terry also highlights in her article the different speakers who challenged that conventionalism.


Cure vs. Prevention

One of the TEDMED speakers who challenged conventional views was Sandeep Kishore, a post-doctoral fellow at Harvard Medical School. According to Kishore, the current conventionalism has been produced by a linear division between the medical and the public health worlds.

Just like 100 years ago, today’s medical schools are still pushing the idea that curing sick people is the best way to measure a successful medical treatment. This academic foundation, as well as the economic interests we mentioned before, are responsible for establishing the prevailing reactive models that define healthcare systems around the world.

Unfortunately, this approach to health has been responsible for bringing healthcare systems to their knees. The financial and human burden has become unsustainable, and that is precisely why prevention is gaining force in the last years. In spite of the fact that prevention appears as the common sense alternative to tackle the current crisis, conventional wisdom still favours cure over prevention.


Changing Lifestyles

One of the most interesting facts presented by Sandeep Kishore was related to life expectancy. A related slide stated that “of the 30+ years gained in life expectancy in the past century in the USA, 5 years are due to medical care.” The remaining 25+ years are explained by an improvement on social things like sanitation, hygiene, and what he referred to as “the causes of the causes.” In other words, our general well-being will be mostly affected by changing our lifestyles rather than by developing new drugs.

Along those lines, other speakers supported the idea of making a clear distinction between conditions that are preventable and those that require advance medical treatments such as surgery and drug therapies. Ivan Oranski, M.D. and Executive Director of Reuters Health, warned about the danger posed by overtreatment and labeling too many patients with subclinical illnesses.


A Tough Challenge

When you are dealing with something like changing traditional views of doing things, you know you are in front of a big challenge. If we add strong economic interests favouring those views, we know the spa and wellness industries will need to work hard in order to step into the health field.

In spite of this tough challenge, the TEDMED conference and other recently held forums around the world are a good indication that there is an increasing dialogue within the health industry regarding the need of changing things around.

Liz Terry thinks we should focus on building alliances with different actors of the health industry and create common goals alongside them. At Spa Balance we share this view. The road won’t be easy but the benefits our industry and the whole society can perceive from changing the current situation are worth trying. Are you up for the challenge?

By Sonal

Sonal Uberoi creates and delivers smarter spas around the world. Spas and hotel groups hire Sonal to help them design, set up and manage their wellness businesses. Her finance background and worldwide operations experience in the spa, wellness and hospitality sectors make Sonal the go-to expert for business optimisation solutions. Connect with Sonal on LinkedIn

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