Healthy & Happy – Why Blue Zones Matter


Dan Buettner is a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best selling author. He will be the keynote speaker in Klamath Falls at the Ross Ragland Theater on Saturday, March 12.

We have giants among us. They take the form of insightful community leaders and collaborative community initiatives.

We have always had giants in our community: 2nd Lt. David R. Kingsley, Kiva Sugarman and Winema Riddle, to name a few.

Or the woman who quit smoking after 30 years and now advocates to others, the mentor who devotes evenings supporting those clinging to sobriety, or the teacher who became a foster parent.

Our local giants recognize that great communities do not happen by accident, they happen by intention.

I am excited to be part of the story of Klamath Falls at a time when we, as a community, have decided that ourselves and our future generations deserve better.

We want our community to be great. We began and furthered initiatives like Klamath Promise, Healthy Klamath, Klamath Works, Klamath County Economic Development Association, Communities that Care, and more. Our community has rallied.


A unique approach


As a perfect complement to this community enthusiasm, Klamath Falls is now one of only 26 Blue Zones Project demonstration communities nation-wide. I am so proud that Blue Zones Project Klamath Falls will be adding our own unique approach and resources to those offered by these community initiatives.

An important part of our story is that our state and our region has rallied as well. Cambia Health Foundation, the charitable arm of Cambia Health Solutions, brought Blue Zones Project to Oregon in support of the Oregon Healthiest State initiative.

Cambia Health Solutions began in logging camps and timber mills as workers pooled funds to help each other with medical needs. Now, in our old logging town, the leadership of Cambia Health Foundation has created an amazing opportunity.

Sky Lakes Medical Center also stepped forward, answering Cambia’s 2-to-1 funding match and serving as a local leader to deepen the Blue Zones Project work here in Klamath Falls. The vision and investment of these two organizations has made it possible for Klamath Falls to be a Blue Zones Project Demonstration Community.


Klamath rallies for its citizens


There is a second component that made the Blue Zones Project possible here: the foresight and drive of a few local people; a few of our giants.

They saw the potential in our community and recognized that Klamath Falls was ready to pursue an aggressive, innovative, wrap-around approach to well-being. They saw how the Blue Zones Project helped other communities surge economic development, increase tourism, increase grant funding, and significantly reduce health-care costs.

They believed the Blue Zones Project could amplify the work taking place across the region to inspire people to be happier, to live longer and to work better, and that is what they wanted for our community.

And we will get there. The Blue Zones Project is off to a great start down a path toward community improvement.


Building a blueprint


For the last eight months, numerous volunteers, leaders, and five dedicated local staff worked diligently through assessment, planning, and early conversations with organizations across the community to bring the Blue Zones Project vision to life.

Moving forward, our work will be driven through multiple committees with more than 120 local volunteers. We will rigorously track and measure the activities and changes inspired by the Blue Zones Project while sharing the successes with our community.

We will create opportunities to support individuals, families, and organizations in re-imagining public policy, places of worship, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, home environments, and ways to make the healthy choice the easy choice.

Many grocery stores, restaurants, workplaces, schools, faith-based, and civic organizations have already begun making changes, and many more are excited to get started.

Our community leaders are motivated to make our downtown and our neighborhoods more walkable, bikeable, and accessible for people of all levels of mobility.

More 60 individuals already attended workshops designed to help people discover and act on their life’s purpose.

We are now ready to kick off the project to all Klamath Falls residents. We can all be part of transforming the wellbeing of our community.

Yes, we have giants among us, and it’s a good thing because we also have some pretty heavy lifting to do.


Participation is the key


You don’t have to look too hard to see the challenges facing our community or hear voices of concern. But now, through the Blue Zones Project, we have more tools, resources, and people power to start making improvements and addressing the way people feel about their community.

The current story of Klamath Falls is exciting, but I am more excited to see where this path takes us in the coming years.

As the Blue Zones Project Community Program Manager, I personally invite you, your friends, and your family to celebrate our community and its future at the Blue Zones Project Kickoff this Saturday, March 12, at 2 p.m. at the Ross Ragland Theater.

The kickoff is a family-friendly event free of charge to the community celebrating Klamath Falls and showcasing the Blue Zones Project tools, ideas, and supports.

I invite you to become a local giant and help make Klamath Falls an even greater community.