When we last checked in, a collaborative of connected coastal California cities known as the Beach Cities had just hired Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones group to help transform health by engaging individuals, business, and government collectively in no-cost and low-cost adaptations. It all sounded like something this side of “promising, but too good to come true.” Given our post-modern, fractured, cynical, and self-involved ways, what could the effort achieve?
For starters, how about 1,645 fewer obese adults (a 14% obesity reduction) and 30% smoking rate reduction that translates to millions of dollars in healthcare-related savings? The number of residents exercising (at least 30 minutes, three times a week) rose by more than 10 percent, and nearly 10 percent reported eating healthier (at least five servings of fruits and vegetables on four or more days in the past week). To top it off, wellbeing climbed three percentage points. All in about two years’ time.
The Blue Zones project is most-often characterized as a purely community-based model, but don’t be fooled. Buettner’s team won’t touch a municipality or a state unless business and government leaders have explicitly stated their support and participation. In other words, Buettner fully understands that if people are to effectively move to a healthier place, those who are making choices at all levels have to be zoned in.