FRANKLIN, Tenn., Sept. 19, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- From the shimmery sands of the West Coast to the fertile soil of the Midwest, communities in California and Iowa are demonstrating that a city really can help make its citizens healthier. With nearly two-thirds of Americans overweight or obese, and only seven percent of Americans thriving across all five elements of well-being, Beach Cities, California, and 15 Iowa communities are leading a movement to improve community health by becoming certified as Blue Zones Communities®.
Blue Zones Project® is a growing nationwide well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier—community by community—through permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks. Founded by National Geographic Fellow and best-selling author Dan Buettner and leveraging public and private partnerships, Blue Zones Project draws upon more than 200 evidence-based practices to help restaurants, schools, churches, and worksites make sustainable changes that encourage healthier choices.
The Beach Cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach, California, are the most recent to achieve Blue Zones Project certification, noting measureable declines in the number of smokers and obese or overweight residents, and a drop in significant daily stress across the three cities. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®, since implementing Blue Zones Project in 2010, in Beach Cities:
- The number of overweight citizens dropped nine points to 50.8 percent, while the national rate rose four points to 63.7 percent in 2015. The number of obese residents came in at less than half the national average, at 12.1 percent compared with 28.1 percent nationally.
- Smoking declined more than 17 percent, bringing the percentage of smokers in the Beach Cities to 8.9 percent, compared with 18.8 percent nationally.
- Daily significant stress dropped 7.5 percent.
"It's very rare you get the opportunity to address community health issues directly and utilize a world-class measurement tool—the Well-Being Index—to chart your progress, but Blue Zones Project made it possible," said Susan Burden, chief executive officer of Beach Cities Health District. "The dramatic health outcomes validate the years of hard work and sustained commitment to health exhibited by our entire community."
In Iowa, 15 communities—Algona, Cedar Falls, Cedar Rapids, Fairfield, Harlan, Iowa City, Marion, Mason City, Muscatine, Oskaloosa, Sioux City, Spencer, Spirit Lake, Waterloo, and Woodbine—have become certified since joining Blue Zones Project. The statewide effort, sponsored by Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield, kicked off in 2011.
From 2010 to 2014, the Well-Being Index data shows Iowa outpacing the nation in overall well-being, improving at twice the rate of the national average. Leading that charge, each of the state's Blue Zones Communities passed complete streets policies, putting a focus on improved walkability and bikability. More than 600 worksites, schools, restaurants, and grocery stores adopted best practices from Blue Zones® regions, or pockets of the world with the highest rates of centenarians. Several Blue Zones Communities instituted new tobacco policies and established safer walking routes for school children, while statewide nearly a quarter million Iowans pledged to make healthier choices every day.
"Watching the progress Iowa's Blue Zones Communities have made over the past five years has been exciting," said Laura Jackson, executive vice president of Wellmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. "The hard work and dedication of these communities has shown that a community-based approach can make a difference in transforming the environment in which Iowans live, work, and play."
Beach Cities and the Iowa cities are among 27 communities across seven states that are now part of Blue Zones Project.
"Iowa became our first statewide and most geographically extensive project, and Beach Cities was one of the first in the nation to take on the Blue Zones Project challenge, and the results speak for themselves," said Katrina Worlund, Healthways senior vice president, Blue Zones Project. "Through the extraordinary leadership of our sponsors, these communities are at the forefront of an important nationwide movement to impact individual well-being and create stronger, more socially and economically vibrant communities."
Buettner identified the original Blue Zones as five regions of the world with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older. They include Ikaria, Greece; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Okinawa, Japan; and Sardinia, Italy.
"Iowa and Beach Cities demonstrate that we really can take the best practices from around the world, and with extensive community engagement, make a significant impact on community and individual well-being," said Buettner. "When asked the question, 'Can your city make you healthy?' The results in these cities show the answer is 'yes.' Beach Cities and the 15 Blue Zones Communities in Iowa offer a powerful example for other cities throughout the country."
Cities interested in learning how they can impact community well-being through Blue Zones Project can get more information at www.bluezonesproject.com.
About Blues Zones Project
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 inspired by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five regions 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, 27 communities in seven states have joined Blue Zones Project, impacting more than 1.7 million Americans. The movement includes three beach cities in California, 15 cities in Iowa, Albert Lea, Minnesota, the city of Fort Worth, and communities in Hawaii, Southwest Florida, and Oregon. Blue Zones Project is a division of Healthways, a Sharecare company. For more information, visit www.bluezonesproject.com.
SOURCE Blue Zones Project by Healthways