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BLOOMINGTON — The doctor's office and hospital haven't been the only places where people can get health care in Bloomington-Normal for some time.

But, recently, the growth of alternative places for health care has been overwhelming. Observers see that trend continuing.

The Activity and Recreation Center (ARC) opened in April and its growth has exceeded expectations.

The massive Center for Integrated Wellness opened in August and the Birth Center of Bloomington-Normal began providing pre-natal care in July and deliveries in October.

Central Illinois Pride Health Center began providing support group meetings, has hired a medical director and hopes to open a health center this summer.

"There is so much public awareness about how people can manage their health conditions and people are doing just that," said Mindy Morgan, director of operations at the ARC, 600 E. Willow St., Normal.

"People are choosing their health care rather than the choice being made for them," said Jessica Poppe, office coordinator at the Birth Center, 6 Westport Court, Bloomington. "People see themselves as not only patients but as consumers who ask questions."

"People are seeking something more from their health care," said Len Meyer, Pride Health Center executive director.

"They don't just want to see their doctor," she said. "They want to have a relationship with their clinician. They want to be more than Patient X. They don't want just a pill to fix things. They want alternative ways to feel better and to have a better life."

When the ARC opened in April, replacing the Normal Township Senior Center, it had 650 members ages 55 and older. By earlier this month, membership was up to 3,574 people, Morgan said.

"It's exceeded our expectations," Morgan said.

Popular offerings are health and fitness-related: a fitness center, exercises classes, pickleball and the walking track.

"This is an encouraging environment for people 55 and older to exercise," Morgan said. "Plus, we've created a social environment, which is so important for people who have retired and have lost those workplace connections. Those social connections are a part of our well-being."

Center for Integrated Wellness, 1111 Trinity Lane, Bloomington, is a 106,000-square-foot center offering a medically based fitness center, a sports performance institute, orthopedic center, imaging center and community education area. Partners are Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, McLean County Orthopedics, Method Sports Performance and Signet Enterprises.

Within six months of opening, just the Advocate BroMenn Health & Fitness Center alone had more than 1,000 members, said Center for Integrated Wellness Executive Director Catherine Porter.

People get physical therapy in the center, then transition to a fitness program so they can return to a healthy lifestyle, Porter said.

"People recognize the long-term benefits (of exercise) and it becomes a part of their lifestyle," Porter said. "They report feeling better, sleeping better and having less stress."

The Birth Center, the first free-standing birthing center in Illinois outside the Chicago area, is for Central Illinois women at low risk of birthing complications and who want to deliver in a less clinical, less costly setting.

As of earlier this month, 21 women had given birth at the center and 65 women had received care, including pre-natal and well women visits, Poppe said.

The Pride Health Center — focusing on the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning and intersex communities — plans to offer primary care and counseling, Meyer said.

Follow Paul Swiech on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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