A recent article in the Boston-based publication The Atlantic reported that “Even before the pandemic began, more people here were dying at younger ages than in comparably wealthy nations.”

In the article, “America Was in an Early-Death Crisis Long Before COVID,” staff writer Ed Yong cites a number of reasons for that startling stat and notes that “Several studies have shown that America’s life expectancy has tailed behind other comparable countries since the 1970s. In the article, he also points out that “America’s already underperforming healthcare system has been badly battered by the pandemic and weakened by waves of healthcare-worker resignations.”

Dr. Ron Kapp, Santa Barbara-based physician, author, and anti-aging research clinician classically trained in allopathic medicine (MD – UT Houston. Ph.D.c – UT Austin, Post Graduate – St. Louis University. Sports Medicine Fellowship – Albert Ludwigs University, Germany) concurs that the American healthcare system is under a great strain, especially in this new age of “personalized medicine.” He says, “Wellness Tourism could be poised to reduce some of the pressure, plus even lead the charge in the paradigm shift the American healthcare system needs to undergo.”

A key-note speaker at the upcoming International Wellness Tourism Conference, taking place Sept. 23 and 24 in the Dominican Republic, Dr. Kapp believes that the world of medicine, as practiced today, is bogged down by a cauldron of paperwork, insurance requirements, government mandates and pharmaceutical promotions, all of which are wrapped up in an electronic health care record-keeping system that he says “boggles the mind.” His opinion is that Wellness Resorts/Retreats with their personalized programs have an opportunity to enter the health care arena as “big-time players.” That brings us to Medical Wellness.

According to the Wellness Tourism Association’s Glossary of Industry Terminology, “Medical Wellness can refer to multi-day retreats, programs, packages or services that are administered by medical professionals but are deemed to be more proactive/preventative than reactive (such as reacting to pain, a medical condition or the need/desire for surgery). Multi-day guided retreats plus individual programs for sleep, stress management, prevention of age-associated conditions, and medical testing for the early detection and prevention of certain medical conditions are examples of Medical Wellness.”

If your clients are looking to include Medical Wellness in their travel plans, here are just a few options to have on your radar:

Canyon Ranch
Offered at Canyon Ranch in Tucson and Lenox, personalized, multi-day Pathways such as the 5- or 7-night Integrative Weight Loss Pathway and the 5- or 7-night Optimal Health Pathway provide guests with an immersive experience including health and performance coaching both pre-arrival and post-stay to identify goals and possible barriers to achieving these goals and to keep guest on track when they return home. These Pathways include diagnostic testing plus one-on-one consultations with a team of physicians, nutritionists, sports medicine practitioners, behavioral health therapists and other health professionals. Programs may include DEXA Body Composition & Bone Density Analysis, Continuous Glucose Monitoring, Sleep Study, Comprehensive Exercise Assessment and a comprehensive blood panel. A Wellness Guide works with each guest to curate a daily plan that weaves together the services above with additional activities and experiences including hiking, healthy cooking classes, fitness sessions and spa treatments.

“As the ability to travel opens back up, we are seeing many guests seeking guidance on how to resume their healthy lifestyles post-pandemic. Our interdisciplinary team of experts has designed our new Pathways to uncover any barriers to optimal wellness, and provide individualized tools for sustainable lifestyle change,” says Dustin Nabhan, v.p. of health & performance, Canyon Ranch.

Pritikin Longevity Center
Founded in the 1970s and acknowledged as one of the top weight loss retreats in the U.S., Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami offers 1- and 2-week, medically based programs based on the pillars of Food & Nutrition, Exercise & Fitness and Healthy Mindset. The program incorporates educational lectures, fitness sessions and cooking classes plus one-on-one consultations with physicians certified in fields such as cardiology and endocrinology (a subspecialty of internal medicine), and medical testing (including blood tests for inflammatory markers, comprehensive cholesterol analysis, and insulin and blood sugar sensitivity).

Pritikin’s medical director Danine Fruge, MD acknowledges that “in the outside world of medical care, we doctors have little time to listen. Generally, about seven minutes per patient. Then we pick up a pad and write a prescription.”  She points out that “At Pritikin, we take the Latin meaning of the word ‘doctor’ (which is ‘teacher’) seriously. We spend a long time listening and educating and, over the years, countless patients have told us that the payoff has been priceless.”

Shaw Wellness
Houston-based Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) members, Shaw Medical Travel Consultants has introduced a series of multi-day retreats created and guided by a team of medical practitioners plus health and wellness professionals headed up by CEO Judi Shaw, MD.

Shaw says the retreats are unique because programs are focused on coping mechanisms and mental well-being, plus the option for participants to craft their personal journeys of growth, depending on each individual’s needs. Dr. Shaw says, “We have crafted a template, but within that template is the ability for flexibility.” She points out that her team of medical experts has been directly involved in treating, studying and researching the nature and origin of various illnesses and that the team “has also witnessed the value of an integrated healthcare team and we understand the model of healthcare maintenance and management. “

Retreat participants will have the option of one-on-one sessions with the Shaw team, which includes a cardiologist, a nutritional neurologist, a clinical psychologist, and an MD/transformational relationship coach. The first of their multi-day retreat series is scheduled for Costa Rica, Oct. 8-15, 2022.

Strata Wellness at Garden of the Gods Resort & Club
Through their Stratafied Memberships (ranging from $6,500 to $15,000), Strata at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs offers an innovative blend of modern Western medicine and traditional Eastern therapies. There are over 30 wellness and medical practitioners on the STRATA team, specializing in both eastern and western philosophies and science-based practices within their customized programs.

Under the supervision of award-winning MD/Ph.D. cardiologist Michael Barber, Strata’s experts drill deep into patients’ health histories to create detailed snapshots of their current state of health. They then chart a customized path to wellness that is specifically tailored to patients’ needs and goals. Stratified plans can incorporate cardiology, chiropractic, nutrition, IV therapy, naturopathy, acupuncture, energy massage and other advanced therapies into a unique route to optimal health designed expressly for that individual.

“The goal here is to prevent dysfunction before it appears,” says Dr. Barber. “If we can engage people early, we can customize a very personal plan, make some adjustments to their diet and lifestyle, and perhaps avoid some problems later on.”

The Farm at San Benito
Acknowledged as one of the leading medical wellness destinations in the Asia-Pacific region, The Farm at San Benito is an eco-luxury wellness resort located in Lipa, Batangas, a 90-minute drive south of Manila. With 60 suites and villas and three restaurants serving vegan, vegetarian and pescatarian cuisine, the resort rests on 119 acres of lush jungle and offers an inspiring view of Mount Malarayat.

Medically supervised, all-inclusive programs at The Farm are available in 2- to 21-night packages tailored to guests’ preventative or restorative needs, and including programs themed to weight management, mental health, sleep recovery, detox using electromagnetic radiation and strengthening the immune system. “While we continue to address modern issues such as technostress and Covid recovery, our purpose is to look beyond current trends to provide a wide range of evidence-based, holistic healing to guests from around the world,” says Dr. Marian Alonzo, medical chief of The Farm’s Holistic Sanctuary Medical Center. Dr. Alonzo also points out that guests are immersed in a distinct healing environment with treatments administered by integrative medical doctors and licensed health practitioners combined with a nurturing Filipino touch.

The Farm has been a partner of Living Life Well Integrative Medical Clinic, a CIGNA-accredited global health care provider, since 2018.

Waldhotel Health & Medical Excellence
Overlooking Lake Lucern in Central Switzerland, and located over 3,600 ft. above sea level, the luxury Waldhotel offers a holistic Healthy by Nature concept that encompasses an extensive medical care team of specialists in a variety of medical fields such as nutritherapy, sports medicine, physiotherapy, general medicine, cardiology and dermatology. Personalized diagnostic, therapeutic and rehabilitation services are complemented by programs that can run from four days to four weeks and longer. Prevention & Health Programs include those that focus on diagnostics and advanced check-ups, weight management & metabolism and mind & body balance.

Prof. Dr. Med. Verena Briner, director of the Medical Center Waldhotel, says “There is more to health than physical fitness. Mental wellbeing is vital; we all need a reason to leap out of bed in the morning. Preventative healthcare should be the watchword, ensuring we treat ailments before they affect our life. We give our guests a few easy to follow guidelines that can lead to a longer and healthier lifestyle. This is surely the key to happiness.”

According to Dr. Kapp, “We deserve the freedom of choice to prevent that which can be prevented, reverse that which can be reversed, and live a life of wellness and longevity for a long as is humanly possible.”

Recommend magazine has partnered with the Wellness Tourism Association (WTA) to bring you monthly columns to help travel advisors sell wellness travel. For more information on the WTA, visit wellnesstourismassociation.org.