St. Joseph Health buys Active Sports Clubs in Petaluma

St. Joseph Health is expanding its investment in fitness gyms, announcing a deal to buy Active Sports Clubs in Petaluma. Current employees will stay on.|

St. Joseph Health has purchased a Petaluma health club as part of larger plans to offer consumers more fitness and wellness services, the health care provider announced Wednesday.

St. Joseph, which operates Santa Rosa Memorial and Petaluma Valley hospitals, has acquired Active Sports Clubs Petaluma, a facility on Redwood Way with 7,000 members and nearly 120 employees. Terms of the sale weren’t disclosed.

The health care provider has owned a medical fitness center in Napa since 2007 and plans this winter to open a third center in Newport Beach as part of a joint venture with Sausalito-based Active Wellness LLC.

St. Joseph officials characterized the efforts as a collaboration that will help consumers lead healthier lives. They said its facility in Napa, Synergy Medical Fitness Center, has decreased the number of individuals there who were rated as having a higher risk for chronic disease. That center already is managed by Active Wellness, as is the Petaluma club.

“For us it was really a natural strategy” to expand fitness efforts with Active Wellness, said Annette Buckel, St. Joseph’s executive director of wellness and retail sales.

Medical fitness centers have operated in the U.S. for more than a quarter century, first started by hospitals using them to attract more patients and to find additional revenue streams, said Jay Groves, an official with a Princeton, N.J., company that operates such centers. But provisions of the Affordable Care Act and new Medicare rules are prompting health care providers to look anew at the centers as cost-effective tools to help patients recover from disease and to keep them healthier.

“What you’re seeing now with St. Joseph and other systems is getting into medical fitness for Version 2.0,” said Groves, the executive director of population health management at Fitness and Wellness Professional Services. The company operates nine New Jersey fitness centers for four separate health care providers.

The nation currently has about 1,300 medical fitness centers, he said. Many house such outpatient health care services as physical therapy, cardiac rehab and diabetes management, as well as offering community education programs that draw in the public for healthy cooking demonstrations and lectures by health experts on such topics as stress reduction or joint health.

The Petaluma club opened in 2009 as Club One Fitness and in 2014 became Active Sports.

Jill Kinney founded the club and remained part of the ownership group, Clubsource at Petaluma LLC, which sold the facility to St. Joseph. Kinney also is co-founder and chairwoman of Active Wellness, which last year announced the joint venture with the health care provider.

She acknowledged that some might wonder why a health care system would buy a fitness club. But the two sectors have “much more overlap than you might imagine,” she said, and they can do more to improve consumer health through collaboration.

“I think you’ll see more and more of this type of behavior,” Kinney said.

The club’s staff will remain employed there, and current members can expect continued service.

Federal rules today increasingly aim to cut medical costs by pushing health providers to prevent disease and improve patient wellness. The efforts also emphasize finding ways to restore patient health after hospital admission.

“It’s in nobody’s interest to have anybody cycling in and out of the hospital,” said Anthony Wright, executive director of Health Access California, a health care consumer advocacy coalition.

As an example of the coming changes, Groves said, this spring Medicare will begin making a single “bundle” payment to providers who care for patients getting knee and hip replacements. The providers will have to show successful treatment, but they will have considerable discretion over how to spend the payment, with some of the funds potentially available to pay for exercise programs at medical fitness centers.

Such services wouldn’t replace physical therapy, and the fitness centers still must make the case to providers and insurers about the effectiveness of the fitness services, Groves said. Some insurers have told him “We think there’s value here, but show us the data.”

You can reach Staff Writer Robert Digitale at 521-5285 or On Twitter @rdigit.

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