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Blue Zones Ready to Learn

Hospital news | Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Contact: Thomas Hottman

Is Klamath Falls ready for Blue Zones?

That's the question members of the Blue Zones team, Cambia Health Foundation, and Oregon Healthiest State are asking this week to complete a "community readiness assessment" ahead of a possible Blue Zones project here.

The goal is to improve the health and well-being of people in the community, said Blue Zones consultant Erika Graves during a leadership presentation at the Ross Ragland Theater Monday morning.

The assessment will help determine if Klamath Falls has the interest, readiness and opportunities for success to undertake a Blue Zones Project "community transformation initiative." The initiative would encourage healthy changes built into the environment and social networks, suggesting policy and program changes community-wide, such as in schools, at work sites, restaurants, grocery stores, neighborhoods and faith-based organizations. The program's goal is to help people live longer and better, lowering healthcare costs, improving productivity and enjoying a higher quality of life.

Focus groups

The Blue Zones team is here this week to gauge the level of interest in the community, Graves explained.

The team is hosting focus groups in six sectors in order to interact and learn from a wide variety of community members about their thoughts on community health, or what their organizations are already doing to help improve community health.

Tony Buettner, who detailed the Blue Zones initiative during Monday's presentation, said the point of the focus groups is to ask questions and learn about the community.

"We're here to learn from you," he said.

So far, Buettner said he was impressed with the turnout.

Blue Zones, if started in Klamath Falls, will not take over existing projects, Graves explained, but instead look for opportunities for growth and ask how Blue Zones can join in.

As part of the readiness assessment, Graves and the Blue Zones team are reading through previous community health assessments, researching organizations, and will conduct a health survey to use as a baseline to track changes in community health.

The biggest question is whether there is community buy-in for a Blue Zones project, Graves said.

The assessment will be released June 30.

Buettner, vice president of Blue Zones product and business development, and brother of Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, told the crowd at the Ragland Monday about the initiative's origins.

Blue Zones is based on principles identified during an eight-year worldwide longevity study commissioned by National Geographic and detailed in Dan Buettner's book, "The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who've Lived the Longest."

The study identifies world regions with the highest centenarian concentrations, or people who live to be 100 years or older. There are five Blue Zones regions: Loma Linda, Calif.; Okinawa, Japan; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Sardinia, Italy and Ikaria, Greece.

These areas share nine common traits, or "cross-cultural commonalities," that both Buettners say contribute to longevity.

Of the people who they talked to for the study, none were "trying to live to 100," Tony Buettner said during his presentation, but instead, those people live in an environment that "nudges them towards longevity."

Commonalities, called the Power 9, Buettner said, include moving naturally throughout the day, for an average of 20 minutes a day, having a sense of purpose, eating a plant-based diet, enjoying a glass of wine, reducing stress, eating less, being part of a faith-based community, staying close with family and maintaining positive social networks.

Americans spend almost $110 billion a year on nutritional supplements, diets and gym memberships, but are still not as healthy as the communities detailed in the Blue Zones study, Buettner said, because those products are short-term solutions have low-adherence rates that leads to long-term failure.

Blue Zones projects "take the focus off the individual," Buettner said, instead focusing on the environment around them, asking questions about the availability of tobacco products and unhealthy foods, if there are trails and parks nearby, and what types of buildings are around them.

Blue Zones focuses on the "12 Pillars" to help make healthy improvements, Buettner said, including policies and programs (such as the built environment, food and tobacco policies), meeting people where they are (asking individuals to pledge to make one healthy change), creating social networks such as walking groups, encouraging volunteerism, and more.

"There's no silver bullet here," he said. "What we do in our communities is release silver buckshot."

If the assessment determines Klamath Falls is ready for Blue Zones, any changes will be community led, Buettner said. People and organizations will make choices that work for them, he said.

Klamath Falls will also be a leader in the Pacific Northwest for community health improvement, Buettner said.

"We could not be more excited to be here in Klamath Falls," he said. "Let's get to work and have some fun."

For more information about the Blue Zones in Oregon visit or email Erika Graves at

Sky Lakes pledges funding

Sky Lakes Medical Center has pledged $200,000 a year for three years for a Blue Zones project in Klamath Falls.

Cambia Health Foundation president and board chair Peggy Maguire made the announcement during the Blue Zones leadership presentation at the Ross Ragland Theater Monday morning; Cambia Health Foundation, in support of Oregon Healthiest State, has also pledged to match funds raised for Blue Zones projects two to one.

That will mean $600,000 a year, or $1.8 million, in funding for community health improvement projects.

According to its website, Cambia Health Foundation is the corporate foundation of Cambia Health Solutions, a total health solutions company dedicated to transforming the way people experience health care.

Community transformation, such as the Oregon Healthiest State initiative, is critical to those efforts, Maguire said, and it is always looking for "innovative solutions" and putting "as much energy into helping people stay well as we do helping them when they're sick."

Depending on the results of a community readiness assessment, Klamath Falls will be the first Blue Zones community in Oregon, Maguire said.

Focus group schedule

Focus groups, with six topics, will meet at the Community Health Education Center, 2200 N. Eldorado Ave., and are open to everyone.

Schools: 8-9:30 a.m. Wednesday
Community Policy: 1-2:30 p.m. Wednesday, or 10–11:30 a.m. Thursday
Worksites & Business: 8–9:30 a.m. today
Restaurants: 10–11:30 a.m. today, 10–11:30 a.m. Wednesday
Grocery Stores: 8–9:30 a.m. today, or 10–11:30 a.m. Wednesday
Faith & Engagement Groups: 10–11:30 a.m. today, or 8-9:30 a.m. Thursday
Media: 8–9:30 a.m. Wednesday Philanthropy: 1–2:30 p.m. today, or 1–2:30 p.m. Wednesday