Blue Zones History
In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and the world’s best longevity researchers to identify pockets around the world where people live measurably longer better. In these “Blue Zones” they found that people reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than in the United States.
After identifying 5 of the world’s Blue Zones, Dan and National Geographic took teams of scientists to each location to identify lifestyle characteristics that might explain longevity. They found that the lifestyles of all Blue Zones residents shared nine specific characteristics. We call these characteristics the Power 9®.
Dan’s subsequent book The Blue Zones hit the New York Times best-seller list and took Dan everywhere from Oprah to TED to Bill Clinton’s Health Matters Initiative. The success prompted a new challenge: could we improve health and longevity in the US?
In 2009 we partnered with AARP and the United Health Foundation to apply the Power 9 principles to Albert Lea, MN (learn more about our approach). It worked: after just one year, participants added an estimated 2.9 years to their average lifespan while healthcare claims for city worker dropped 49%. Harvard’s Walter Willett called the results ‘stunning’ (learn more about the Blue Zones Projects).
We are now building Blue Zones in cities and businesses across the country. Our mission – to help people live longer, better lives – is spreading. Learn how you can get involved.
Watch a video that explores more of what the Blue Zones means to communities. It was originally presented at a recent Oregon Healthiest State summit. Sky Lakes support is noted at 2:37 although Klamath-area scenes are scattered throughout.
The Blue Zones Project is a systems approach in which citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders collaborate on policies and programs that move the community towards better health and well-being. We implement long-term, evidence-backed policies and interventions that optimize environments within communities, nudging people towards healthier choices throughout their day.
The program is based on getting broad and committed buy-in at a community level. Specific tasks are required to be a participant at each level. Becoming a Blue Zones Community requires:
At least 20% of citizens sign the Blue Zones Personal Pledge and take actions to improve their well-being.
Completion of the Blue Zones Community Policy Pledge around Built Environment, Living Streets, Tobacco policy, and Food Policy.
At least 50% of the top twenty community-identified employers become a Blue Zones Worksite.
At least 25% of independently or locally owned restaurants become a Blue Zones Restaurant®.
At least 25% of public schools become a Blue Zones School
.At least 25% of grocery stores become a Blue Zones Grocery Store.
Well-Being improvement (measured by Gallup).
What We Do
Our program is based on the assumption that we spend 90% of our lives in a 20-mile “Life Radius”. Within that life radius we focus on optimizing:
The built environment: Improving roads and transportation options, parks, and public spaces
Municipal policies and ordinances: Promoting activity and discouraging junk food marketing and smoking
Restaurants, schools, grocery stores and workplaces: Building healthier options into the places people spend most of their time
Social networks: Forming and nurturing social groups that support healthy habits
Habitat: Helping people design homes that nudge them into eating less and moving more
Inner selves: Encouraging people to reduce stress, find their purpose, and give back to the community
Why It Works
Rather than relying on individual behavior change, the program focuses on making the healthy choice the easy choice. Instead of nagging people to exercise, we make walking easier and more desirable than driving. By making wholesome foods more accessible and less expensive than junk foods, people begin to eat healthier naturally.
Our approach is based on the cornerstone of sustainability. Unlike other health or wellness initiatives we address the environment not just the individual, resulting in long-term impact that stands the test of time.