MONTEREY, Calif., Jan. 18, 2021 /PRNewswire/ --Today, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHS), Taylor Farms, and Montage Health announced the expansion of their agreement with Sharecare and Blue Zones LLC to transform the well-being of Monterey County communities. Since 2019, Blue Zones Project® by Sharecare has driven well-being improvements for Salinas residents, and, beginning this year, the initiative will extend across the entire county.
"Following the measurable successes achieved in Salinas to date, we have confidence in envisioning a healthier future for Monterey County as we extend and expand Blue Zones Project with the support of our partners," said Pete Delgado, president/CEO of Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. "We have years of work ahead of us as we pursue a mission centered around a healthier community, but based on the results we have observed in Salinas to date, we are encouraged by the efficacy of the Blue Zones Project approach to enhance the built environment and create opportunities for better health and economic development locally."
Blue Zones Project is a first-of-its-kind population health initiative that helps entire communities get healthier by optimizing public policy, social connections, and the places and spaces where people spend the most time so that healthy choices are easy and accessible. Participating communities have seen double-digit drops in obesity and smoking rates, economic investment in downtown corridors, grant funding awards to support policies and programs aimed at improving health equity, and measurable savings in healthcare costs. The expansion of Blue Zones Project across Monterey County builds on measurable progress already achieved in the two years since the initial program kickoff in Salinas and during which the importance of community well-being and health has become a timely concern across the county.
According to Sharecare's Community Well-Being Index (CWBI), Salinas ranks 44 out of 383 metro areas across the nation in overall community well-being, with Monterey County ranking 202 out of 3140 counties. While the CWBI rankings for Salinas and Monterey County land in the top quintiles for metro areas and counties, respectively, many underlying factors of well-being have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and stand to affect the county's long-term resiliency, health outcomes, and life expectancy – including economic security and access to resources and healthy foods. More immediately, workers in the agriculture industry – which includes Monterey County's largest employers – account for more than a third of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the County, with Latino residents accounting for nearly 80% of that total.
Blue Zones Project helps communities strengthen individual and community resiliency by fostering strong social support networks and healthy lifestyles; and the program's efforts in Salinas have already made strides toward shaping an environment that influences community well-being, public health, and population health outcomes by making healthy choices easy and accessible for all. By expanding to serve the broader Monterey County population, Blue Zones Project will build upon its early successes in Salinas and address well-being factors that need the most attention across the region.
"Over the last decade, we've implemented dozens of Blue Zones Projects across the country, and we are proud that these communities are consistently recognized among the best places to live, work, and play," said Michael Acker, senior vice president and general manager of Blue Zones Project by Sharecare. "While Blue Zones Project was introduced in Salinas less than two years ago, the local impact already is visible, and we must recognize its growing significance as we focus on resiliency and recovery against COVID-19. We thank our partners – the sponsors that made the earliest commitment to bringing this proven solution to Monterey County – and commend them for their vision and willingness to expand this opportunity throughout the region, even in the face of the unexpected challenges introduced by the pandemic."
"In the wake of the pandemic, leaders all over the country are looking for innovative and comprehensive approaches to improving community well-being," said Ben Leedle, CEO of Blue Zones and co-founder of Blue Zones Project. "Monterey County is already well ahead of the curve with Blue Zones Project and this early renewal and expansion. The need has never been greater for a proven solution that will help entire communities get healthier and happier with lower healthcare costs, increased productivity, and better quality of life for current and future generations. We're excited to see the transformation unfold and spread throughout the region as a model for what a community can do when it comes together with a shared vision."
In addition to local sponsors SVMHS, Taylor Farms, and Montage Health, hundreds of community organizations and thousands of community residents have pledged to take action and support Blue Zones Project, and program representatives have worked with a cross-section of community leaders to create a transformational blueprint aimed at optimizing the Life Radius, or the area close to home where we spend 90% of our lives, with an emphasis on people, places, and policy.
About Blue Zones Project by Sharecare Blue Zones Project® is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city's environment, policy, and social networks. Established in 2010, Blue Zones Project is based on research by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five cultures of the world—or blue zones —with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older. Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner's findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being. Currently, 56 communities across North America have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 3.8 million citizens. The population health solution includes two Health Districts in California; 15 cities in Iowa; Albert Lea, Minnesota; the city of Fort Worth, Texas; Corry, Pennsylvania; Brevard, North Carolina; Walla Walla Valley, Washington; and communities in Southwest Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Wisconsin. Blue Zones Project is a partnership between Blue Zones, LLC, and Sharecare, Inc. For more information, visit bluezonesproject.com.