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Health centers not just for the sick, anymore

  • Instructor Andrea Gonzalez leads, from left, Molly Thompson, Serena Codiroli and Vicky Mira during a Zumba class at the Petaluma Health Center on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2012. ((BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat))

In a move that illustrates how health-care facilities are evolving beyond their age-old mission of treating illness, the Petaluma Health Center has opened its new exercise facility to the general public.

This month, the health center began offering fitness classes to both patients and local residents. Offered at discount prices, the courses include two Zumba classes and two yoga classes, with more offerings on the horizon.

"We're going to be open to anyone in the community," said Luke Entrup, the health center's newly hired wellness program manager.

Entrup said other courses being considered include Tai Chi and Qi Gong, aerobics and 5Rhythms dance classes.

"We're going to start yoga and Zumba classes, but we're going to build many more classes," he said.

The Petaluma Health Center is one of the largest health care providers in southern Sonoma County, with 18,000 patients. Its new "movement room" is part of the center's new 53,000-square-foot facility, which is expected to serve some 35,000 southern Sonoma County and northern Marin County residents.

Fitness classes are part of the health center's wellness program, which is aimed at promoting healthy living and helping patients improve their condition while dealing with chronic disease such as diabetes.

Other health care providers in the county offer similar programs.

In west Santa Rosa, a health program for children called "Muevete!" is offered at the Southwest Community Health Center and the Roseland Children's Health Center, which are part of the Santa Rosa Community Health Centers.

The program meets once a week for six weeks and is geared toward children 10 to 18 who are struggling with their weight. Activities include Zumba, yoga, cooking lessons, tips on grocery shopping and other nutritional education.

Also at Southwest Community Health Center, a weekly group class called La Vida Dulce, Spanish for The Sweet Life, uses a casual party atmosphere as a model for diabetic management nutrition education.

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