We’ve all seen the innumerable ways the evolution of technology has transformed everything from our four-walled classrooms to our much more complicated courtrooms, and the healthcare industry is no exception. In a very short amount of time, COVID-19 has become an unprecedented disruption to all facets of the healthcare industry — and certainly, innovation has made it to the top five needed list to deal with the pandemic.
And yes, we are seeing technology also extend its influence into the fitness industry, impacting how gyms deliver workout routines and how with the help of technology, we are building a new healthcare ecosystem.
With modern technology changing the healthcare landscape, Vietnam’s largest fitness brand comes in with a strong mission — to make healthcare accessible to everyone in Vietnam by 2025 by starting with fitness and expanding into nutrition, mental wellbeing, and prevention. California Fitness & Yoga’s vision is not just about fitness, the goal is to become a technology company with fitness and health at its core.
Building a healthcare ecosystem
The World Health Organization defines “health technology” as the application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of medicines, medical devices, vaccines, procedures, and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve the quality of life.
But with preventive healthcare, health technology deals with the actions one takes to prevent illnesses or mitigate existing diseases and reduce associated risk factors. And that is where California Fitness & Yoga intends to make a change.
“Our mission is to ensure 100 million Vietnamese can access one of our preventive healthcare mechanisms by 2025, wherever they live,” said Dane Fort, CEO of Fitness & Lifestyle Group, the holding that operates California Fitness & Yoga in the country.
Vietnamese across the country, including those in rural areas, will be able to access California Fitness & Yoga’s range of health services through their smartphones already this year, in an effort to democratize access to preventive healthcare which it says is a “right of birth” each citizen should have.
California Fitness & Yoga’s expansion to provide fitness and health services is accessible to over 43 million people across all of Vietnam through both direct access to consumers and partnerships with other companies. The decision comes as a response to the aftermath of yet another coronavirus outbreak and follows a strategy initiated in 2019 to create a new healthcare ecosystem in Vietnam.
In 2007, California Fitness & Yoga opened its first location in Vietnam and since then, Dane Fort means business. He has since built the company into a fitness empire with four brands, 65 locations all over the country, and 250,000+ members. In the pipeline are 30+ more locations and a range of digital solutions.
More than two years ago, Dane Fort weighed 165 kgs and had 48% body fat. But the moment he decided to join the program, his whole life changed. “Today, I'm 99 kgs and only have 7.7% body fat — much fitter, more comfortable in my own body, more lively and, most importantly, far happier than I’ve ever been,” Dane Fort shared.
He continued saying everyone deserves the chance to change their lives for the better, to feel fit, healthy, alive, and feel the excitement of living every single day. “Thus, we want to give every Vietnamese the power — no, the RIGHT to be part of this program, to break the mold and become a better version of themselves.”
A true believer who’s in pursuit of a better self, what more can you ask from a fitness company’s CEO?
Protection is something everyone should — and can afford
Talking about what more to ask for, Vietnam is particularly sensitive to the word “insurance” — adding protection to prevention. To date, this is California Fitness & Yoga’s most ambitious plan.
“Most people in Vietnam intuitively understand that protection — in this case insurance, against the unexpected — is a sign of smart financial management. The reason why many people don’t subscribe to an insurance plan, however, is due to a price mismatch between what they think they should be paying and what insurers are charging” says Dane Fort.
This is particularly true, the more physically active and fit people felt, the more they perceived their health to be of lesser risk.
In Vietnam, over 21% of the population is overweight or obese, which results in overpriced insurance premiums to blanket cover all citizens across the country.
To counter this, Dane Fort says the company went down the rabbit hole to find how insurance companies price their premiums and what solutions they could provide to lower these to reflect healthier habits.
After speaking to nearly all leading insurance companies in Vietnam, the common response was, “Look we will always need to charge people more unless we understand their healthy habits such as how active they are, what they eat, and how their key blood indicators are evolving”. It sounded perfect to Dane Fort’s ears, after all, most of which can be estimated by how often they exercise and what they eat. A scenario he and his team surely can address.
Through California Fitness & Yoga’s insurance partnerships, first with SunLife and most recently with LivWell, the company provided anonymized data to insurance providers to find behavioral patterns of members. The result has been drastically lower insurance premiums — and large-scale adoption of the same. And that the “health score” managed to achieve such large premium reductions, hacking its way to a significantly lower insurance rate.
“We decided to offer free accident insurance to all our new members to prove protection is something everyone should — and can afford.”
An app that pays you to be active
California Fitness & Yoga believes that instead of locking people out of fitness, unlocking access to as many fitness options to as many people as possible is a puzzle they have to solve.
“Part of our mission is to create fitness inclusion, which means even if you’re not yet financially ready to commit your time and efforts to a gym membership, we want people to have the access to the resources and the motivation to pursue a healthy lifestyle. That’s key to getting everyone to live a bit longer and a bit happier too” said Dane Fort.
Enter, LivWell — a mobile app that gamifies your fitness experience by getting paid every time you engage in healthy behaviors. It’s pretty simple: just download the app, connect it to your wearable device and sync its health settings. Easy as that you’ll get credit points for your daily jog, even steps. These points can then be redeemed across 100+ perks including hotel accommodation, air tickets, and food.
“Right now, we’re working towards making those points an actual currency which appreciates over time and will be accepted as a payment method across thousands of merchants at some point. It will take time but that is our vision,” Nikhil Verma, Founder of LivWell, proudly shared.
To effectively use the technology, the LivWell app aims to get detailed daily information on people’s behaviors and eventually, offer customized insurance and healthcare plans that adjust to each person’s health habits and fair price-wise.
But it doesn’t end there, Nikhil mentioned they will also offer this benefit to companies through a new platform built with LivWell and which will allow companies to track their employees' health scores, understand what the insurance premiums discount should be, and even receive quotes from insurers.
“We hope this too will save money to companies so they can reinvest into other corporate benefits — hopefully, those that further enhance their employees’ health."
“The science behind it”
To tackle the main causes of death in Vietnam — strokes, heart diseases, and diabetes, which can be prevented by living an active life — California Fitness & Yoga launched its new California Nutrition Coaching Service program that provides customers with daily nutritional advice, all day every day. California Nutrition Coaching Service is probably the most advanced nutrition service in the Asia Pacific. It taps into a network of experienced nutrition experts specializing in weight loss, nutritional balance, meal replacement, and healthy weight gain to help people address their core concerns.
California Fitness & Yoga believes that it doesn’t matter how often you come to the gym and exercise, that might cover 4-8% of your daily hours because you still have more than 50% of your time awake which you’re not optimizing and where you’re draining health away.
Speaking about how the team integrates nutrition initiatives, Jonas Wilbert, Head of Growth for FLG Vietnam, says “We connect with members online for extreme convenience. Forget about appointments; send a message to your nutritionist anytime 24/7 and they will engage with you daily, 7 days a week. Whether you are in Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Sapa, or Phu Quoc - we’re there for you.”
Take away its intentions and tech advances, what makes a program truly effective? Well, it’s the science behind it. By using a combination of in-person questionnaires together with blood analysis to build a menu that meets both your needs as well as bridges the gap in health risks, it’s already possible to track a few key metrics such as glucose and cholesterol levels and liver function indicators to provide solutions to any issues.
From the users’ end, the program has been designed to be as simple to use as possible.
Step 1: Upon signing up, customers get a call with their assigned nutritionist for an orientation
Step 2: Schedule their blood test and three days later, users will receive their customized plan
Step 3: The nutritional coach will then conduct daily follow-up via chat and ensure customers keep motivated and focused on weekly milestones.
“All this at a fraction of the cost of a traditional nutritionist”, which has been kept as reasonable as possible so many people across the country can sign up without having to worry about the expense.
Universal healthcare program
The younger generation is our future — may it be tech, healthcare, fitness, or anything. If the goal is to prevent diabetes, strokes, and heart diseases in the future, we need to begin fitness education and engagement as early as now and develop children’s healthy habits into the norm.
While California Fitness & Yoga’s main focus has been on creating offerings to the end consumer, the company has not been oblivious to the impact some organizations can have in generating awareness and adoption of its “universal healthcare” program.
To do so, the company has sought to find “anchor partners” in key areas to build joint ventures with and deliver its desired value.
“We began an aggressive focus on key partnerships around 2 years ago with the intent of building the foundation of our industry, adding core capabilities to help us expand our offering and expanding reach to new markets”, said Dane Fort.
To build the foundations of the industry, California partnered with key Sports Universities to strengthen the curriculums offered and better prepare students for the job market. It also committed to giving employment opportunities to former athletes and fresh graduates.
California Fitness & Yoga turned to key partnerships as a way to continue expanding their reach. An example of that has been the TiniFit partnership in the development of a fun, martial-arts-based fitness program for kids. As for the LivWell app, California Fitness & Yoga sees partnering with insurance providers to initially offer free accident cover to all their new and renewing members, with banks and insurers on financial wellbeing packages, and with healthcare providers on a 24-hour nutritional offering.
Earlier in 2020, California Fitness & Yoga also launched its first Corporate Transformation Challenge, a wellness program aimed at helping companies engage their staff, decreasing absenteeism, and improving overall health. The corporate programs encouraged employees to sign-up in teams or individually and then compete with other companies and within their company — and the winners were awarded at the end.
With over 1,500 people participating yearly in these programs, corporate wellness has become a cornerstone strategy for “engaging people and pulling them out of their comfort zone”.
Speaking of initiatives for the public to participate, sanctioned by the Guinness World Records organization and will involve having people all over Vietnam who have undergone a transformation, California Fitness & Yoga launches a world record attempt. A World Record will be set if at least 20,000 people participate in the program.
Some of the confirmed participants joining the Guinness World Records attempt include Lotte Mart, Hong Bang International University, Hoa Sen University, N KID Group, Ho Chi Minh City Police Department, SunLife Vietnam, and PVI Insurance.
All people need to do to be a part of this momentous record is visit https://join.cfyc.com.vn/, where all they need to do is submit a before and after a photo showing how practicing a healthier and more active lifestyle changed their lives. Companies, universities and other organizations wishing to enroll their team members, students, or partners can contact the Partnerships Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
All applicants will receive a certificate of participation and an invitation to join the California Transformation Challenge program which runs until the end of September.
In case you’re not convinced yet, this program is usually paid but is now being offered free of charge nationwide in a simplified format which includes access to the gym for two months plus 16 group PT sessions given for free and focused on helping World Record Applicants change and accelerate their results.
“It’s all part of our plan to democratize health access across Vietnam,” says Dane Fort with a conviction of someone who’s already seeing what the World will look like past 2025.
Generally speaking, while our healthcare system has come a long way thanks to the countless benefits enabled by technology, it’s clear that this is only the beginning of what’s in store for technology in healthcare and fitness. Fortunately, there are initiatives like California Fitness & Yoga’s to remind us there’s always room for improvement within us and it’s basically within our reach, wherever you are.