Editor’s Note: We live in an era where staying centered and healthy may seem like it’s becoming more and more challenging. With so many things capturing our attention these days—from the bastion of media information suddenly flooding our senses via Smartphones, Facebook and Twitter—we’re bound to eventually ask ourselves: What’s the best way to find balance and stay grounded? Hopefully we can offer some answers to that question in our health issue. This year, we decided to spotlight several local health advocates whose work is steering people toward living—or, in some cases, having—a more healthy life. And take note of our new health probe, dubbed On Our Radar, where we spotlight innovative happenings and humans. Enjoy. And here’s to your good health. —Greg Archer
Healthy Kids of Santa Cruz County
Affordable health insurance for families in need
Before Juana Cortes and her family moved from Stanislaus County to Watsonville, she couldn’t afford health insurance for her four children. When her son’s dental filling fell out, and the $60 replacement procedure wasn’t financially an option, he had to live with the pain.
But then the Cortes family relocated to Watsonville and was introduced to Healthy Kids of Santa Cruz County. The program, which functions as part of the Health Improvement Partnership (HIP), is a coalition of local healthcare leaders who are working to improve access and availability to healthcare services for area children.
While the original goal was to provide assistance to 5,000 local children, since 2004 Healthy Kids has enrolled more than 21,000 into Healthy Kids, Medi-Cal, and Healthy Families coverage programs. And for residents like the Cortes family, the impact has been life altering.
“Where we used to live we couldn’t go to the doctor or the dentist,” says Cortes, with the help of a translator. “When we got here [my kids’] teeth were horrible, and through the program they were able to get restorative care. Now, we take them once every three months for regular check-ups.”
Since finding out about the program three years ago, Cortes has enrolled her two youngest children (ages 4 and 5) into Medi-Cal, and her two oldest children (ages 9 and 15) into Healthy Kids. Instead of seeking treatment on an episodic basis, the family now has a comprehensive plan administered by the Central California Alliance for Health that covers medical, dental, and mental healthcare, and allows them to schedule regular doctor’s visits for preventive care.
Insurance premiums are no longer an issue either, according to Cortes. “I can pay now because it’s so low,” she says, beaming.
To keep such a program running in this economy hasn’t been easy—First 5 Santa Cruz County funds premiums for children ages 0 to 5, and premiums for children ages 6 to 18 are funded by donations and fundraisers—but for Healthy Kids manager Jordan Turetsky and Laurie Mireles, policy and outreach director, the ability to assist families with the gift of insurance is too rewarding to pass up.
“If kids have preventive care, they’re given the best possible start in life, which leads to a better life overall,” says Turetsky.
In order to qualify for the Healthy Kids program, enrollees must have been residents in Santa Cruz County for at least six months, they can make up to 300 percent of the federal poverty level (not above), and they can be undocumented. Healthy Families covers up to 250 percent of the federal poverty level, and Medi-Cal covers up to 133 percent, according to Turetsky.
“When we first started the program there was a 98 percent insured rate in the county,” says Mireles. “Now the uninsured rate continues to grow.”
As of this month, 402 children between the ages of 6 and 18 are on the waitlist to enroll in Healthy Kids. But with the help of the community, that number could significantly decrease. For just $85, one child can receive healthcare for a month, and for $1,020, a child will receive healthcare for a year.
“We’re working hard to not have to disenroll anyone,” says Turetsky. “But every penny helps.” | Jenna Brogan
For information on how to enroll and donate to Healthy Kids, visit schealthykids.org, or call 430-5604.
On Our Radar: Revolutions in Food
Local bestselling author, activist and change maker John Robbins has two notable projects on the horizon: his latest book, “No Happy Cows: Dispatches From the Frontlines of the Food Revolution,” which hits stands on April 1, and a “Virtual Food Revolution Summit,” which he will co-host with his son, Ocean Robbins, later in the spring. The tome follows in the footsteps of his 1989 classic “Diet for a New America,” which brought factory farming into the limelight and ignited the movement toward plant-based diets. “No Happy Cows” discusses alternatives to factory farming (read: grass-fed, free-range, etc.) that have sprouted up in the years since. The week-long virtual summit (April 29 – May 6) will explore these issues and more among its 20-plus speaker lineup, which is a bricolage of New York Times bestselling authors, filmmakers, health professionals, scientists and other prominent players in the health and food movements afoot. Stay tuned to Good Times for an in-depth preview of both the book and the summit in our April 5 issue. | Elizabeth Limbach
Local healing center helps people overcome addictions and other ailments holistically
The term Shangri-La was made popular by 1930s-era British novelist James Hilton, and is now synonymous with an idyllic, mythical haven or getaway. The pristine white, Romanesque architecture and lush palm-studded setting of Pleasure Point’s Shangri-La Organic Health Spa Clinic and Green Healing Center indeed evoke an oasis from the often-frenetic pace of modern life. But its visitors are doing more than relaxing, says founder and medical director Genita Petralli—they are healing.
As a rehabilitation and detox center specializing in psychiatric drug and alcohol abuse, Shangri-La offers a unique healing and educational experience rooted in Petralli’s recovery plan, which revolves around the duality of mind and body wellness, and focuses on green, organic processes.
Her medical ideology emphasizes the vitality of wholeness at a global and individual level. By drawing parallels between the two, she illustrates the idea of conscious consumption—a profound awareness of what one puts into his or her body—and provides clear, manageable steps toward recovery. Shangri-La prides itself on its attention to individuality, and its commitment to forming a recovery plan around the patient (or “guest,” to borrow their preferred, more empowering, term). Mainstays include organic food and supplements, body treatments, yoga, and counseling. Both the body and the mind are equally and intensely engaged, which Shangri-La’s staff considers essential to achieving a full recovery.
The Shangri-La staff, whose specialties range from holistic medicine to psychology to qigong, believes that people have, in Petralli’s words, “been so busy taking things apart that we have forgotten that they were all once whole.” The commitment of a return to wholeness is crucial to the goal Shangri-La sets for its guests of returning to, and maintaining, their most natural and healthiest states. Once the guest takes the critical first step of developing a life map during Integral Life Practice Coaching, which involves ridding the body of the symptoms that cause addictions, he or she is free to explore a variety of diverse wellness treatments. Acupuncture, reiki and deep tissue massage work are popular options. An infrared sauna, which safely replicates the sun’s rays, and a consistent diet of healthy, organic meals and juices, coupled with wellness shots, complete the healthy lifestyle patients are encouraged to pursue on their road to recovery. Constant access to round-the-clock counseling and mental and spiritual health training workshops round out the non-physical aspect of treatment.
Grammy award-winning singer Mika Urbanaik and one-time subscriber to Petralli’s treatment method cites its unique ability to hone in on and remove the body’s invisible emotional toxins as the crux of its effectiveness. She credits Petralli with giving her a new lease on life, free of addiction. Both in-patient and out-patient care is offered. Pre-stay counseling matches guests and their loved ones with a program that fits their particular needs. | Katie Lewin
For a free consultation call (877)-285-9266, or visit shangrilabiospa.com for more information.
On Our Radar: Breast Cancer Detection Legislation
In 2011, Sen. Joe Simitian, whose district includes Santa Cruz, fought hard for the breast density inform bill he authored (SB 791) to become law. Unfortunately for Simitian and other advocates of the bill—which would have required mammogram providers to inform patients if they have dense breast tissue—Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it on Oct. 9, 2011, despite broad bi-partisan support. Santa Cruz County resident and breast cancer survivor Amy Colton entered the bill in Simitian’s annual “There Oughta Be a Law” contest. Forty percent of women receiving mammograms have dense breast tissue, according to the American College of Radiology Imaging Network, and these women are five times more likely to develop breast cancer. However, dense tissue makes mammograms less effective: 75 percent of cancer is missed in women with dense tissue through mammograms alone, according to the Mayo Clinic. “It’s like finding a snowflake in a blizzard,” Simitian explained in a September 2011 letter to Gov. Brown. The senator, Colton and other advocates of the bill aren’t giving up, and plan to introduce a slightly tweaked but similar bill into the legislature this year. “We will keep trying,” Simitian told GT last fall. For more about Colton and this issue, check out GT’s March 15 cover story. | EL
‘Health From Field to Sea’ Central Coast Regional Health Summit
The first-ever Central Coast regional health summit is approaching, and promises to be a fruitful gathering of representatives from six counties, including Santa Cruz. The event aims to jumpstart discussions on how to “build advocacy efforts on healthy living policies at the local, state and federal levels, and acquire the tools needed to support community action and collaboration.” Assemblymember Bill Monning (D-27th District) will give the keynote address. Read more about his message for the summit in this week’s News section. | EL
9:30 a.m. to 4:40 p.m., Friday, March 9 at 275 Main St., Watsonville, Community Room.
Natural Bridges Acupuncture Clinic
Santa Cruzan’s ideals generate healthy vibes
Gina Escobar’s motto is clear and she’s sticking to it: Bridge the gap between Western and Eastern medicine.
“I think Western medicine has its moments, but if you want to treat the roots, instead of just the symptoms, that’s where Eastern medicine comes into play,” she adds.
Fortunately, the local has plenty of opportunity to practice this balancing act. Escobar founded Natural Bridges Acupuncture Clinic, one of the Westside’s best health havens, two years ago after feeling motivated to branch out on her own when My Center on Water Street closed its doors. Having studied and trained at Five Branches in the early 2000s, she says she’s always been drawn to traditional Chinese medicine and its health benefits.
From December through January, I booked several appointments with Escobar to better understand how to navigate through some major life changes. Acupuncture, I was certain, would be one of the best methods. We began with a powerful acupuncture treatment in one of the two charming treatment rooms in Escobar’s studio—tucked away in Palm Center on Mission Street. Beyond some of the emotional issues I was processing, I was also experiencing a modest seasonal cough that kept lingering on. The first treatment focused on that with the intent of directing energy toward the inflicted area (upper respiratory). I was told to drink plenty of water and to allow the treatment to settle in as the day and night rolled on. After effective results, I was eager to experience more.
During my next visit, Escobar noticed my congestion and opted to perform a cupping treatment. Intrigued, I nodded, and took my place, this time face down on the treatment table. Many Cruzans have experienced this kind of procedure, and for those who have not, I highly recommend it.
“Anytime there’s pain in the body, it’s blood that’s stagnating,” Escobar tells me. “Cupping brings up coagulated blood and lets it regenerate—it’s like a reverse massage and used for lung conditions, too.”
Perfect, considering my current state of being.
The procedure itself is enthralling. The air inside of a glass cup—although it looks like a small jar—is heated with either a candle, match or lighter. The rim is then applied onto the skin—the back—and quickly forms an airtight seal. As the air within the cups begins to cool, a contraction takes place, forming a vacuum. This enables the cup to suck the skin, pulling in the soft tissue and drawing blood to that region. At this point, Escobar moves the cup(s) up and down the back before allowing it to rest on a certain spot, or energy point.
It’s a powerful treatment, to say the least, and, coupled with acupuncture, you walk away feeling as if you’re back in your body and as if your internal energy has recalibrated. (Note: some modest bruising can occur with cupping.) Bottom line: this was one of the more unique and invigorating treatments I have received in some time.
Natural Bridges offers a great deal more, though. Beyond cupping and acupuncture, there are herbal prescriptions, tuina massage and guasha—it’s like a massage but a jade scraping tool is used on the body. Take note: acupuncture isn’t just for pain relief. Escobar notes that it can treat anything from the common cold to infertility. In fact, one of the specialties at Natural Bridges is fertility and women’s health—some acupuncture treatments are designed to stimuale the balance of estrogen and awaken the ovaries for production.
Prices here range from $70-$110 for services, and Escobar does take insurance. More good news: Every Saturday there is a Community Acupuncture Clinic—where prices range from $24-$45.
As for the best treatment for the upcoming season, Escobar says one word comes to mind: Liver. She recommends a liver detox/treatment. “Spring is related to the liver.” | Chase Montgomery
Visit Gina at 550 Palm St., Santa Cruz, naturalbridgesacupunctureclinic.com. Call 419-7885.
On Our Radar: Aptos Village Skin and Body Care
It really feels as if there’s too much praise to give to this place. Don’t worry—we won’t gush, but we will say that owner/esthetician Patty Yarr is doing something right here. Anybody that can convince a scattered guy that there’s nothing wrong with a nose waxing—and then proceed to give it to him—is just fine in our book. (More on that nose thing, later.) What stands out, perhaps, are two vital things: Yarr’s experience and one-of-a-kind services offered. Three services that stand out: the Anti-Aging Facial ($80), the Electro-ionization Facial ($95—inquire about specials) and the Pre/Post Cosmetic Facial ($70). TAKE NOTE: you can purchase five facials and get one free. Aptos Village Skin and Body Care also offers make-up and waxing, and Yarr has massage therapists on hand as well. There’s more to report, but for now, we’re happy to note this dynamic refuge, which is dedicated to a part of health we might often overlook: Nurturing ourselves. (Read more on our exclusive online blog at goodtimessantacruz.com.) | CP
8035 Soquel Drive #39, Aptos. Call 688-4541 or visit aptosvillageskinandbodycare.com.
On Our Radar: Fresh Skin and Body
A unique oasis thrives in Capitola
It doesn’t hurt to not only be grateful for your skin, but to treat it well. And if you don’t … well, that’s when things start to hurt. It’s just one of the things that has intrigued Elizabeth Crocker in the more than 15 years she has been working in the arena of skin health.
And now, it has paid off for her—big time. As the owner of Fresh Skin and Body, she is now at the helm of one of Capitola’s wonderful treasures.
“I just happened to pick up the phone and took a risk,” Crocker recalls of how the spa came to be. She was considering renting space in an existing salon in early 2010, but something made her reach for the phone and simply ask the landlord of the building she was considering if it was available. Fortune shined down on her, and eventually she was able to remodel the place and open in April of last year. The result is downright charming. There are three treatment rooms in this nicely decorated haven—one of them a tanning room—and the overall esthetic, with its calming lighter tones, is beautiful.
My journey here was all about the facial, but over time, I inquired about the three facial issues most people may not be fully aware of—exfoliation, hydration and sunblock. Crocker is quick to point out that the latter is of significant importance.
“The clients that wear sunblock seem to have always worn sunblock and I see it right away [on the face],” she says. “In the long run, it’s the preserver of your skin. That’s why you see certain cultures—Japanese and Chinese for instance—keeping the sun away, you can see the difference in their skin.”
There’s also a difference between dehydrated skin and dry skin, the facts of which may escape most people. Dehydrated skin is mostly the result of not drinking enough water—the skin gets parched and the elasticity of the skin is not nearly as pliable. Dry skin is flaky, red and often irritated. It’s a very important piece of information and an important distinction to make.
My visit quickly morphed into a touch of bliss. After settling into one of the treatment rooms, Crocker proceeded with a Face Lift Facial. It consists of a glycolic hot peel, which is designed to firm up the muscles. Those who receive facials regularly may already know of their wondrous effects. For newbies, it can quickly morph into a bit of a thrill ride—from moisturizing to the use of specialized tweezers and back again. Ultimately, it’s about pure restoration with lotions or creams that will best accentuate the best of your face. My entire face, neck, shoulders were massaged, as well as upper arms. And for my facial, Crocker also used a special layer here, something she says is similar to egg whites, which adds to the facial stimulation. The end result is a one-of-a-kind tautness.
“It’s almost like giving your face a workout,” she notes.
Take note of Fresh’s specials in March, particularly the Freshen Up Your Sexy—it’s 20 percent off all services.
Other packages stand out, too. The Microdermabrasion Package—purchase six treatments and get the seventh at 20 percent off ($125 savings); a Tanning Package—purchase five tans for $175 ($25 savings); the Endermologie Package—a minimum of seven treatments for $65 per treatment.
Fresh Skin and Body also benefits from visits from a renowned researcher/scientist/lecturer, Dr. Moy, considered to be one of the most renowned dermatologists in the nation. He hits Fresh Skin and Body about every six weeks to work with clients.
In the meantime, Crocker is enthusiastic about this work—genuine passion just beams right off of her.
“My No.1 goal is to make people feel special, feel good, and help in improving their self image,” she adds. “I want them to feel like they are the only thing that matters to me at that time; and me listening to their concerns about their image. It’s not just about skin— usually, there’s a lot more involved than just skin.” | Charlie Price
Learn more at Fresh Skin and Body at 627 Capitola Ave. Ste. A, Capitola. Call 427-7180 of log onto freshskinandbody.com.
On Our Radar: Music Therapy
Who says prescription medication is the only way to heal? In Santa Cruz, locals have started looking beyond the pharmacy for relief via music therapy. At Dominican Hospital, respiratory therapist Earl White helps calm the nerves of his patients and improve their outlook with his fiddle. By inviting them to sing along or hum a tune, White gets his patients to exercise their diaphragms and practice pulmonary rehabilitation in an entertaining way. Music therapist Marya Stark uses a similar technique when working with children with autism, people battling addictions, and groups suffering from trauma. Singing songs together helps each of Stark’s clients to develop or reclaim their sense of identity and build a trusting relationship, among other benefits. For those who are sick, dying, and recovering from illness or injury, the Santa Cruz Threshold Choir comes to the rescue. A nonprofit women’s organization dedicated to comforting those in need, the choir sings a capella at bedsides. | Jenna Brogan
For more information about music therapy, visit musictherapy.org. For details about the Santa Cruz Threshold Choir, email Marti Mariette at [email protected], or call 227-3781. To contact Marya Stark, email [email protected]
More than just a ‘gym’
It began with one location—somewhat on the smaller side, the building was unassuming and blended in with the rest of the downtown shops. That was 1996. Today, Christophe and Cecile Bellito, the husband and wife owners of Toadal Fitness, can boast five thriving gym locations dedicated to the health and wellness of Santa Cruz County.
A longstanding establishment in the community, its excellent reputation and various convenient locations has kept the local gym chain growing. “I remember when we first opened and people told us, ‘You’re crazy, there’s a 24 Hour Fitness and a Gold’s Gym, World Gym, whatever,” says Christophe Bellito. “Before we opened, there was not one gym that focused on 95 percent of the people. They seem to focus on the people already in shape, or people who have been working out for years. We wanted to create an alternative to that. We want to be a gym where everybody who comes in feels comfortable, feels like family.”
To make that dream a reality, Toadal Fitness offers a variety of activities and locations for its members to enjoy. “At most of the locations,” notes Bellito, “we added about 50 to 60 classes for each week between all the clubs, because we realized [it is the classes that] make people come back.” From yoga to Zumba, pilates to kick boxing, cycling to boot camp, mixing up one’s workout is easy.
However, Bellito encourages routines. “We try to create, to do whatever it takes for people to come regularly,” he says. “We help find a routine that works for [our members], because if you enjoy it, you’ll do it for a long time.” That idea is the foundation for the Toadal Fitness-4-Kids program. At both the Live Oak and Westside locations, Toadal Fitness-4-Kids aims to create positive associations with health and an active lifestyle that children will learn to implement throughout their lives.
When it comes to adults, one of Toadal Fitness’ most popular programs is Toadal Cross Training (TXT) because of its all-encompassing regimen that focuses on nutrition, recovery and proper exercise. “We have people doing these Cross Fit programs, but scaled down to their needs,” explains Bellito. “What makes the difference is the group. You can do it on your own, people are motivated to do it on their own, but when you have someone next to you, you’ll do it a little bit more.” The Toadal staff is all about results, but with emphasis on proper form and technique, especially in TXT, where competition and timing can put participants who are not used to such intensive workouts in danger.
Those interested in becoming a part of the Toadal Fitness community can look forward to a promotion deal, called “Five Clubs, Five Dollars,” which kicks off in March. “That month we’re going to have a $5 enrollment fee instead of the $49 that we usually charge,” Bellito says. “In celebration of our five clubs, we also have new upcoming family rates and the introduction of a senior program that people can look forward to in March.”
While Bellito believes that some gyms are in the “membership selling business,” at Toadal Fitness, priorities lie elsewhere. “We are in the relationship business, so we care about everyone that walks in the door,” he explains. “That’s just the way we do things.” | Jenny Simeone
Toadal Fitness Locations: 113 Lincoln St., Santa Cruz, 423-3764; 1200 17th Ave. #108, Santa Cruz, 464-3764; 3004 Mission St., Santa Cruz, 466-3764; 6200 Soquel Drive, Aptos, 475-5979; 816 Bay Ave., Capitola, 475-1500. Visit toadalfitness.com.
On Our Radar: Tradewinds Tanning Inc.
It’s hard to imagine that so many great things can be juggled with such grace, but Tradewinds seems to have a knack for it. Aside from being one of the more esthetically unique havens south of Santa Cruz, the professional staff here are just downright happy. It boasts both tanning and a spa services—read about a recent and spectacular massage excursion in our blog online. So, what do you get? Massage: take your pick from Swedish to Deep Tissue, but our bets are on Trigger Point Therapy, which targets knots in the muscles. (Prices range from $40-$100.) As for the tanning, there’s a plethora of services to choose from—the Sunboard Bed stands out but the Airbrush Tan is now very popular; the beds use less UVB rays for “darker” results—Tradewinds also offers facials. Several fine products (the Marini and Epicuren lines) captured our interest.
Something truly unique: The Infrared Body Wrap—buy one, get one free. Read more about the Tradewinds experience in our exclusive blog online at goodtimessantacruz.com. | CP
7960 Soquel Drive Aptos, 688-6946. Visit tradewindsaptos.com.