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Inclusive Health

By: Howard Murad, MD
Posted: June 2, 2009, from the June 2009 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.
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Today’s inclusive health care environment aims at being noninvasive, goes beyond the holistic approach and includes nutrition, hormone therapy, exercise physiology and psychological health in addition to medical treatments, spa services and therapeutic skin care. Collectively, the result is optimum health and beauty that lasts.

A comparison

Inclusive health is truly an American creation with roots in European and Asian philosophies. Although international concepts have been imported to the U.S. spa industry, they’ve also been adapted for the needs and demands of American clientele. Interestingly, Europe is now looking at the United States for cues about how to become more relevant to European consumers. European spas have historically been based on treatments that use natural resources and incorporate some medical care, but not to the extent of being whole-health, inclusive care centers, such as those currently found in the United States. Although European spas have traditionally focused on a comprehensive approach to therapeutic stays that may last for weeks,1 the newest trend is to offer shorter day-long packages that provide the cosmetic aspect of inclusive care. All things considered, there are still many differences between American and foreign spas.

The biggest difference between U.S. spas and those in Europe—other than the lax attitude toward nudity—is water therapies and the use of oils. Water services still remain a tough sell in most American spas and are largely absent in medical spas. In the United States, water does not form the foundation for all other treatments as it does overseas. Oils are generally not used as often in the United States either, because Americans are broadly opposed to greasy-feeling skin.

Long ago in Europe, health, wellness and beauty surrounded the use of balneotherapy, or medicinal bathing, including drinking natural spring water. It is to this day in Europe widely acknowledged that water therapies have a noticeable effect on motor skills, skin, mental health and other conditions.2 As such, water features are much more elaborate in Europe and form the core of a spa-goer’s therapies. For example, in France—the birthplace of thalassotherapy—bathing in sea minerals is believed to keep infection at bay, promote pain relief, assist in the rejuvenation of skin cells, and promote a healthy exchange of minerals and toxins between the blood and water.3

But things are beginning to merge. For example in Germany, in addition to skin care treatments, there are spa treatments for cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal illnesses, rheumatic diseases, gynecological problems, disorders of the nervous system, psychosomatic fatigue, general infirmity and convalescence.4