Blue Zones Project

Blue Zones Project is a community-led health improvement framework designed to make healthy choices easier by permanently improving our living environments.

Established in 2010, Blue Zones Project is based on research by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow 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. The Project brings together leadership from key community stakeholders, including community planning, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, worksites, and faith-based organizations. This interdisciplinary group of stakeholders, along with national well-being experts, works together to implement evidence-based programs and permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks. Together, these changes measurably improve well-being.

Blue Zones Project has four integrated components:

01

Blue Zones Power 9®

An evidence-based methodology. Blue Zones Power 9® principles promote healthy behaviors through simplicity and connections to what matters for healthy living. As illustrated in Table 1, Power 9 principles align with modifiable factors for chronic disease prevention.
Blue Zones Power 9
Modifiable Risk Factors
for Chronic Disease
Move Naturally
Lack of physical activity, stress
Right Outlook: Downshift, Purpose
Stress, mental well-being
Eat Wisely80% Rule, Plant Slant, Friends @ Five
Nutrition, obesity, mental well-being
ConnectLoved Ones First, Belong, Right Tribe
Stress, mental well-being
02

Life Radius®

An all-in approach to community engagement to transform a community’s environment for health (one’s life radius). The methodology integrates evidence-based expectations that support environmental changes across three areas: Policies, including built environments, food and food systems, alcohol and tobacco policies, and smoke-free environments; Places including faith-based organizations, schools, worksites, grocery stores, and restaurants; and People, with strategies to engage individuals about their health, including the Personal Pledge, and for inter-personal connections and to create momentum with a broad range of community and civic organizations, like Purpose Workshops and Moais®. As illustrated in the table to the right, addressing Policy, Places, and People also aligns with modifiable factors for chronic disease prevention.
Blue Zones Project
Intervention Areas
Modifiable Risk Factors
for Chronic Disease
Policy: Built Environment, Food, Alcohol, and Tobacco
Physical Activity, Nutrition, Obesity, Stress and Mental Well-being
Places: Faith-Based Organizations, Grocery Stores, Restaurants, Schools, Worksites
Nutrition, Physical Activity, Stress and Mental Well-being
People: Engagement Activities, Personal Pledge
Stress and Mental Well-being; Loneliness

Following a Discovery Phase where the community is assessed for strengths, challenges, and opportunities, a Blueprint is developed in conjunction with community leaders using well-being indicators (denominators for change). This Blueprint is the roadmap for change that guides transformation activities for multiple years. Defined methodologies (certification tools and improvement targets) for each area galvanize shared accountability toward the goal of becoming a Certified Blue Zones Community®. Specific timeframes drive a sense of urgency and facilitate milestone completion.

This approach drives multi-sector engagement and empowers informal connections and “networks for health”. These are key to such health issues as mental well-being, loneliness and social isolation for persons living with challenges or for informal caregivers and aging adults. This multi-sector framework also means that what adults experience at work, in the community, and the grocery store aligns with what their children would experience in a school.

03

Measurement for individual, organizational and community learning

Blue Zones Project’s measurement methodology will bring meaning to targeted outcomes in the Community Health Plan. Sharecare’s Simulation Model projects future impact on health care utilization and costs based on changes in key measurement indicators.
04

Implementation through community-based leadership.

Each community has a steering committee of local leaders and sector work groups that are responsible to lead implementation of the Blueprint for their respective areas and monitor success toward the goals of becoming a certified community.
Blue Zones Project has demonstrated large-scale community successes:

Beach Cities, California (2010 to present)

Obesity rates dropped significantly for elementary children and adults; rates of unhealthy stress were reduced; and smoking dropped by 17 Cities pursued and won $8.1 million (US) in new funding for infrastructure improvements, attributed to Blue Zones Project’s presence (Blue Zones Project 2016).

Fort Worth, Texas (2014–2018)

Increase in overall well-being score from 58.5 to 62.5 (Gallup-Sharecare Well-being Index®). Healthcare savings are projected to be significant: “Each point increase in well-being for a population leads to approximately a two percent reduction in ER visits and hospital utilization, and to a one percent reduction in healthcare costs” (Blue Zones Project 2018).

NCH Healthcare System (Florida)

The first Certified Blue Zones Worksite in Florida and first healthcare system in the US to earn this certification. Demonstrated increases in its Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index scores with demonstrated savings in healthcare expenditures (Weiss 2018)

Using comprehensive methodology, the rich data set of outcomes across 50 communities, and health indicators and health care system utilization rates of Airdrie residents (2017 data), Sharecare’s Simulation Model projected reduced health care service utilization, improved productivity in local workplaces, and enhanced regional economic development totaling over $100 M (Cdn) across the next decade.

These possibilities, combined with the systematized process for Airdrie residents to own their health improvement, were compelling for the community, and the overwhelming consensus was to proceed.

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