Warriors for Wellness

At the ISPA Conference this fall, American Spa’s editor in chief Julie Keller Callaghan attended an especially moving Alex Szekely Humanitarian Dinner. During the dinner, hostess Deborah Szekely, founder of Rancho La Puerta (Tecate, Mexico) and the Golden Door (Escondido, CA), shared her latest endeavor, Wellness Warrior, and encouraged attendees to answer the question: “If there were just one thing you could change, when it comes to the future of health and wellness for our nation, what would it be?” Here’s what this group of industry insiders had to say:


SCHOOLS & THE EDUCATION SYSTEM  | wellness concerns that center on children

  • I would start at the beginning: our children. Focus on foods’ nutrition and execute in our elementary schools.
  • Grassroots effort—start with your local school and make a difference. Change the lunch menus. Start a fitness group.
  • Healthy lunches, snacks and school gardens in every K-12 public school in the country.
  • Overhaul the school food program and ban corporate food companies from school campuses.
  • Have spa professionals go into the community and teach people how to take baby steps to wellness — like walking 15 minutes a day, or going to fast food places one less time a week.
  • FOOD! Better understanding of what to eat (GMOs in particular and the pros and cons of this technology.
  • In order to democratize wellness we need to call ourselves “producers” and not “consumers” of health. Consumer implies passive behavior. Producers, on the other hand, demonstrate the need to take personal accountability for our health. “Democracy” implies people taking personal responsibility to direct the government for the good of all people. To democratize wellness each person needs to take charge of their own health. This requires the transfer of education, content, and ongoing information to make informed decisions.
  • Awareness of GMOs in foods. Consumer choice. Heal the Family.


DEMOCRATIZATION OF SPA |  change via greater access and awareness

  • “Spa In The Hood”... Bringing spa philosophies, education, and hands-on therapies into low-income neighborhoods.
  • Community centered activities every week 
  • Start with our families, step by step. Involve friends, then their families, then our community via schools, companies. Use the power of the internet and social media. Create small committee to represent wellness in each of our communities.
  • Ensure that everyone has access to fresh, wholesome food to prepare and enjoy with loved ones.
  • Make a conscious effort to stop doing things that have and will perpetuate the status-quo of our industry.
  • The “massage envy” of wellness.
  • Make it accessible. Make it affordable.
  • It’s not enough to know what is wrong. It is time to have action steps to follow.
  • Providing affordable plant-based, certified organic skin care to the greater population in biodegradable packaging.
  • Access to affordable, clean, healthy food for all.
  • Stronger movement toward preventative healthcare for everyone. Change the fears and reservations many have about blending traditional medicine with integrative medicine alternatives.
  • Affordable and attainable health and wellness opportunities for all.



  • Collaboration between insurance companies, healthcare providers and employers to create healthy, sustainable communities.
  • Give people a tax credit for having good blood lab values, desirable body mass index, and having contributed to a charity that teaches wellness to population groups at risk
  • Personal responsibility
  • I would like to see spa treatments covered by health insurance to make them more accessible to more people.
  • A partnership established between American Cancer Association, Melanoma Society, Cosmetologists, estheticians, and massage therapists to work together to commit to informing clients if they have a suspicion of skin cancer and communicate it carefully to people early. Detection = more survivors.
  • Repeal affordable care act.
  • Change the current models to incorporate more technology to personalize and individualize the experience.
  • Change the incentives of the healthcare industry to be based on outcomes rather than on procedures and pharmaceuticals.



  • World Wellness Day is a good next step.
  • Spirituality and health care are interconnected. Conscientiousness, morality and balance require thoughtful investigation. Spirituality needs to encompass religious integrity; Christianity, Judaism etc. Wellness will be more embraced if traditional values are included.
  • I hope to see our future generations find inspiration to be more focused on health and fitness. Make it cool to be fit!
  • Restore the family.
  • I would limit the usage of technology so children could play, exercise and socialize again. Sedentarism would not be an issue.
  • Self esteem important - helping people feel better about themselves.
  • Teach children self care so that it becomes a habit. Habits don’t require willpower and 85 percent of everything we do is a habit.
  • Have more opportunities to come together and speak, understand the real day to day and long term challenges we face. How to better solve the Spa Staffing challenges.
  • Respect, acceptance and understanding between individuals, countries and nations. No prejudice in health opportunity and access.
  • This is a very big question - and I am still thinking - and do not want to give up with a quick answer. I am a thinker and I need more time to think about this.

How would you answer this question and what can you spa do in the New Year to help make it happen?