Blue Zone Project Looks to Improve Oregonians Well Being

Klamath Falls first to take on project that gets community, schools involved in healthy choices

The Blue Zone Project, a national effort with the goal of raising life expectancy and lowering healthcare costs has reached Oregon and is already underway in Klamath Falls.

Based on principles developed by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author, the project focuses on working with community leaders, schools, government officials, corporations and others to help people make healthier choices so they’ll live longer, be healthier and have higher quality lives. Buettner traveled the world to find commonalities among communities where people remain healthy until they reach 100.

Cambia Health Foundation is funding the Oregon project, in collaboration with Healthways and Blue Zones, LLC.

“I think people are starting to think more creatively about where they can help peoples’ well- being,” said Aaron Patnode, executive director of the Blue Zones project. “To me this is really the future of healthcare and wellness.”

For example, in Okinawa, Japan, residents sit on the ground often, forcing them to get up and down regularly. “They’re basically doing squats all day,” said Patnode, formerly the executive director of Cover Oregon.

The nine principles for living healthier and longer include: stress relief, eating plant-based foods, waking up with a daily purpose, drinking a daily glass of wine with good friends, spending time with family, eating mindfully and stopping when full, moving naturally, surrounding yourself with positive people and belonging to a faith-based community.

The three-year project in Oregon includes state-wide measures with focused efforts in Klamath Falls and another community, likely in the Portland area.

More than 90 people have already volunteered in Klamath Falls, serving on various committees, said Jessica DuBose, community program manager.

The Blue Zones Project work stems from Gallup research, which assesses and ranks community wellness through a tool called the Well-being Index that looks at five interrelated elements: purpose (liking what you do each day and feeling motivated), social (supportive relationships), financial (managing economic life to reduce stress and increase security), community (liking where you live, feeling safe and having pride), physical (having good health and enough energy to get things done). Oregon ranks 27 out of 50 in the nation (1 being the highest wellbeing, 50 being the lowest). Klamath Falls’ wellbeing ranking is toward the lower metric.

“We’re toward the bottom of the index for wellbeing,” said Dubose, who’s from Klamath Falls.

Shelby can be reached at [email protected].

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