The Business Of Getting Away

After seeking help from 12 different doctors for more than 20 years for a rare skin condition, Lonnie White grew tired and frustrated of misdiagnosis and prescriptions that seemed to trigger other health problems. A former professional football player, he also suffered from sore joints and back pain.

At the urging of his wife, White, a sports writer for the Los Angeles Times, decided to seek a program that could put him on a healthy track. He settled on the Executive Health Program at Canyon Ranch, a resort located on 150 acres of desert near the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains in Tucson, Arizona. Aside from his hectic work schedule, White had just completed writing the book UCLA vs. USC: 75 Years of the Greatest Rivalry in Sports. “I figured that even if they couldn’t help me with my ailment, I’d be able to relax,” he said.

Canyon Ranch, and an increasing number of other facilities offering health solutions and work/life programs fall under the categories of destination or medical spas. And they’re growing in popularity.

According to the International Spa Association (www.experi, an industry organization representing about 2,000 health and wellness facilities in 59 countries, there were nearly 70 destination spas in 2002. By 2004, there were 191. Between 2001 and 2003, the number of visits to destination spas increased from 500,000 to 2.4 million, and revenues jumped from $158 million to $399 million. What’s driving these numbers? Results.

A recent study by Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration found that more than 500 respondents who attended destination spas where the focus was healthy living felt fit and energetic after their stay. They conducted business with more acumen and creativity, experienced enhanced decision making, and were able to handle challenges with marked improvement.

White found even greater returns. He was finally diagnosed with the chronic inflammatory skin disease Hidradenitis Suppurativa, which affects areas of the body where there is skin-to-skin contact. In addition to receiving guidance on treatments and care, he also learned that he had a tilted pelvis and flat feet, which contributed to his joint problems.

During his five-day stay at the spa, White was assigned a physician and went through three days of medical testing that included a full physical, blood work, stress tests, and a session with a chiropractor for concerns he had about his bones. He also enjoyed a variety of massages and tai chi classes. Canyon Ranch offers more than 50 fitness classes and daily activities including yoga, meditation, tennis, hiking, and biking.

The spa, which has a sister facility in Lenox, Massachusetts, and is scheduled to open its first healthy living residential community in Miami this year, offers an executive health package that includes pre-arrival preparation. Prior to White’s visit, he received a phone call from a registered nurse and was required to fill out a survey that revealed his family medical history.

The spa requires that all guests undergo an 80-minute comprehensive head-to-toe assessment; a variety of tests such as the cardiometabolic stress test, heart rate