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October 21, 2020, 04:58:27 am
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Author Topic: Blue Zones Project: focus on how to make healthy-living more accessible  (Read 1189 times)
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« on: June 26, 2018, 09:22:14 am »

Blue Zones Project: Three days of activities to focus on how to make healthy-living choices easier to access

Blue Zones Project has identified unifying factors to world’s healthiest areas

Tulsans are about to find out what a Blue Zones Project is, and whether the city has what it takes to become one.

Three days of presentations, workshops and public meetings kick off Tuesday night with a keynote presentation by Tony Buettner of Blue Zones Project.

“The simplest way to put it is, Blue Zones Project is a community-by-community well-being improvement initiative designed to help people lead longer, better lives by making healthy choices easy,” Buettner said.

Tony Buettner’s brother, Dan Buettner, founded the Blue Zones Project after he was commissioned by National Geographic to identify areas of the world where people live the longest, healthiest lives, and why.

The “Blue Zones” name refers to the blue circles drawn on a map to identify those communities: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece; and Loma Linda, California.

Dan Buettner and his fellow researchers identified nine common factors in those communities — called the Power 9 — that contributed to longer, healthier lives. They include plant-based diets, routines to reduce stress and “environments that constantly nudge them (people) into moving without thinking about it,” according to the Blue Zones website.

More than 40 communities in 10 states, including Pottawatomie County, have been designated as Blue Zones Projects.

The pilot Blue Zones Project was implemented in Albert Lea, Minnesota, about a decade ago. According to Tony Buettner, health-care claims there plummeted by 40 percent, tobacco use declined by 17 percent and walking and biking among residents increased by 80 percent.

“In all of the communities we are seeing a reduction in health-risk factors, (and) we are seeing economic impact in vitality, making these communities communities of choice,” he said.

John Schumann, president of OU-Tulsa, has been working for the past two years with the Tulsa Regional Chamber and other private and public organizations to explore the possibility of becoming part of the Blue Zones Project.

Schumann said the program, if implemented, could include such things as Blue Zones shelves in supermarkets, where healthy foods are highlighted, Blue Zones designations on restaurant menus, or a church-based initiative to promote biking or walking.

Schumann acknowledged that people sometimes tune out healthy-living initiatives like the Blue Zones Project because they think they’ve heard the pitch before. But Blue Zones does a great job of getting its message out in a way that is inspiring, he said.

“If you watch Dan Buettner’s TED Talk, it is hard to watch it and not be inspired,” Schumann said.

Tony Buettner said he and his staff will spend the next three days identifying Tulsa’s obstacles to healthy living and whether the community is ready and willing to become part of the Blue Zones Project.

In a month or two, those findings — and recommendations for how to move forward — will be presented to the nearly 20 public and private entities spearheading the effort, who will then decide whether or not to proceed with the program.

Tony Buettner described the Blue Zones Project as privately funded, “but a public-private collaboration.”

Zack Stoycoff, vice president of government affairs for the Tulsa Regional Chamber, has been part of the Blue Zones discussion from the beginning.

Chamber officials, along with other Tulsa stakeholders, visited with leaders of Fort Worth, Texas, last year to discuss that city’s participation in the program, Stoycoff said.

“It is up to us to decide as a community if that is the direction we want to go,” he said.

Mayor G.T. Bynum said he has discussed the Blue Zones Project with Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price but that he will ultimately rely on the feedback of those involved with this week’s meetings before determining whether to advocate for the program and how the city might be involved.

“The important thing is we are beginning a community-wide conversation around the best strategy to improve health outcomes in Tulsa,” Bynum said.

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