Top 10 Future Shifts in Wellness

The Global Wellness Summit (GWS) recently took place in Mexico City (November 13-15), gathering the brightest thinkers from a diverse cross section of industries to contemplate the best strategies for Building A Well World.

Among the forecasts were that wellness will become more mandatory in more nations soon; that breakthroughs in epigenetics, stem cells and integrative medicine are near, and that “programmatic” workplace wellness will disappear.

“It was the largest, most cross-disciplinary Summit in its nine-year history, attracting 470-plus delegates from more than 40 countries,” says GWS chairman and CEO Susie Ellis.

“Never have so many great minds from the medical (eg. the US Mayo and Cleveland Clinics, Harvard and Duke Universities) or workplace wellness worlds (eg. Johnson and Johnson and Zappos) assembled at the conference.

“The Mexico City Summit was a watershed moment, because passionate leaders from economics, medicine, government, technology, spa/wellness, travel, education and the arts came together to debate how to bring preventative health into our chronic disease and healthcare cost-burdened world – much like when the world first came together in Kyoto to declare solidarity against climate change.”

The key Summit players give SPA+CLINIC the highlights.


From Cracking the Genome to Cracking the Epigenome

We’ve had years of promises that “cracking” the human genome would eradicate all kinds of diseases, but experts like keynote speaker and holistic wellness guru Dr Deepak Chopra explained that the future is decoding the epigenome, that DNA which is ceaselessly modified by lifestyle choices and environment. Research is underway pinpointing the 20 or so genetic markers (out of 2,400) that are actually modifiable by healthy living. Epigenetic breakthroughs are coming.

From Optional to Mandatory Wellness

Global economist Thierry Malleret did the maths on the skyrocketing cost of chronic diseases ($47 trillion worldwide over the next 20 years, or 30 percent of GDP), and a world ageing like never before (800 million people now over 60), and concluded that wellness can no longer be optional. More governments will take legislative action to require or reward healthier behaviour. This isn’t a “maybe”, it’s near certainty: wellness tax incentives, and insurance companies rewarding healthy behaviour (as tracked by wearable/implantable devices) will arrive by 2020. Initiatives that reward and support people will be most successful, and ultimately even appreciated, because they work.

From “In Your Face” to Imperceptible Wellness

Wellness has historically been something you “do”. The future is more wellness baked seamlessly into the fabric of our lives: dawn-simulating lighting waking you up gently (goodbye shrieking alarm clock); bed sensors monitoring your sleep, making instant ventilation/comfort changes; and responsive materials (using haptic technologies), including fabrics that cuddle us, or clothes that deliver the perfect massage. The prediction? Even futuristic “living” buildings that monitor residents’ oxygen, stress and hunger levels to adapt homes in real-time – even ”growing” you a new room!

From Workplace Wellness “Programs” to Total Cultures of Wellness at Work

New Global Wellness Institute* research forecast that workplace wellness approaches will change radically: the current “program” mentality will die a natural death because they’re not working. The future is meaningful, real “cultures” of health at work, tackling everything from physical to emotional, to financial wellness: fair pay, healthy workspaces, inclusion of families and virtual workers, and tackling fast-disappearing work/life balance, like mandating vacations and that workers unplug from always-on, wired work. Companies will replace “ROI” obsessions with measuring total “return-on-value” (ROV), with mounting evidence that happy, healthy workers not only reduce healthcare costs, but also drive recruitment, retention and much higher profits.

From Medicine vs Wellness to Truly Integrative Healthcare

Integrative medicine has been talked about for decades, but is finally happening. Medical leaders from the Mayo and Cleveland Clinics, Harvard and Duke agreed that now we’re at the real “inflection point”. Today every leading medical centre either has, or is planning, a wellness/integrative centre. And if doctors have always been reimbursed for treating disease, a future where they get remunerated for preventing it looks possible (as in countries like China, Norway, and Singapore). Medicine will incorporate more wellness, but the reverse will also be true. One example: the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program coming to the Mandarin Oriental, Bodrum, Turkey in January 2016.

Medical Technology Breakthroughs: from Ingestible Health Trackers to Stem Cells

Medical technology breakthroughs presented were mind blowing. Ingestible, health-tracking nanochips that monitor 50 biological functions 24/7 will make clunky wearables seem prehistoric, and usher in a new era of precision, preventative and personalized medicine. And new directions in stem cell harvesting/freezing (no more storing cells from a baby’s umbilical cord, but rather the non-invasive extraction of stem cells from teeth) have the ability to make any cell “young” again: whether bone, insulin, pancreatic, heart, liver, brain, eye, collagen or elastin, cells. Which may be the path to curing diseases like ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimers.

Wellness Homes: Big Growth and Big Premiums for Owners/Investors

More homes, communities and even cities are being master-planned from the ground up for human health. New examples: Mayo Clinic’s ambitious 20-year project to turn its base of Rochester, MN into a “City of Health” and Delos Living’s project to transform part of Tampa City in Florida into a 40-acre healthy city. Wellness living is certainly good for people, and according to a panel of real estate developers, it’s also good for the bottom line. Preliminary numbers indicate very healthy investment returns: between a 5-35 percent premium on wellness-branded, single-family homes; a 7-10 percent premium for wellness rentals; and a 15-30 percent average daily rate premium for wellness-branded hotels.

From Superfood and Diet Trend Hysteria to Sane Eating

Given the recent, hysterical obsessions with the next superfood or diet trend, experts are suggesting that we may be experiencing a collective, global eating disorder. Nutritionists noted that what we eat has changed more in the last 40 years than in the previous 40,000. Superfoods are on a collision course with sustainability: our manic importation of chia seeds, quinoa, goji berries, etc. is disturbing global ecosystems. The future? Clean, sustainably sourced (from our own backyard), personally intuitive foods – and a welcome return to eating as pleasure (yes, you can skip the kale).

Wellness Travel Booming: from Emerging Markets to New “Pairings” for Wellness

Omer Isvan (president, Servotel Corp) summarised: “Wellness will only become a bigger player in the destination resort space, while resorts without wellness and ‘purpose’ will decline.” In general, experts agreed that the heart of wellness tourism is the “transformational experience”: less about the destination, and more about how the experience alters a person’s mind, body and soul. Jean-Claude Baumgarten (former president, World Travel and Tourism Council) noted that because “wellness” can sometimes remain a hazy concept for travellers, that we’ll increasingly see it paired with every travel category imaginable: wellness and …“adventure”, “culinary and wine”, “cruise”, “cultural”, “safari” … you name it.

From Wellness for the Wealthy Few to the Democratisation of Wellness

A powerful thread running through the Summit was the need to bring wellness to more members of society: the young and old, wealthy and poor, the healthy and ill. As Agapi Stassinopoulus stated in her wrap-up keynote: “It’s time to take wellness to the masses.”

  • The GWS is an invitation-only international gathering that brings together leaders and visionaries to positively shape the future of the $3.4 trillion global wellness industry. Held in a different location each year, the Summit attracts delegates from more than 40 countries. Summits have taken place in the US, Switzerland, Turkey, Bali, India, Morocco and Mexico City. The next Summit will be held in Tirol, Austria, October 17-19, 2016.

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