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City of Fort Worth, Chamber of Commerce and Texas Health Kick Off Blue Zones Project Assessment

FORT WORTH, Texas — More than 200 area employers, education/leaders, City of Fort Worth officials, Chamber of Commerce leadership, restaurant owners, grocery owners, civic/non-profit organizations, major health initiative leaders, faith community champions, area foundations and other thought leaders in Fort Worth joined together on July 15 at The Fort Worth Club for a kickoff event for the Blue Zones Project™ Assessment for Fort Worth.

The Blue Zones Project is a community-wide well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes in environment, policy and social networks. By helping people live longer and better through behavior change, communities can lower healthcare costs, improve productivity and boost national recognition as a great place to live, work and play. The Blue Zones Project will create change at the community level and beyond based on the understanding that improving one’s social, emotional and physical well-being requires having the right support at all points of engagement.

“For businesses that provide employee insurance coverage, the wellness component in corporate health care is indispensable to contain costs, maintain high productivity and improve employee morale,” said Bill Thornton, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce. “Even as employees are being held more accountable for their health care choices, if employers help support that, it’s a win-win.

“Fort Worth already has many of the assets in place that are part of the Blue Zones formula,” Thornton added. “As we build a healthier workforce, this attracts both business and top talent to our area and further improves our quality of life.”

Proven Results for Blue Zones Project Initiatives
Consider this: Three cities in the greater Los Angeles area began their Blue Zones Project journey in 2010. Within two years they:

  • Reduced obesity by 14 percent
  • Reduced smoking by 30 percent
  • Increased exercise and healthy eating by 10 percent and 9 percent, respectively
  • Drove $9.3 million in healthcare savings among a population of 120,000 people
  • Raised well-being by 3 points as measured by the Gallup Healthways Well-Being Index®

Texas Health Resources and Healthways, Inc. have partnered to apply the Blue Zones Project methodology to launch the Blue Zones Project right here in Texas. But first, researchers must ensure that Fort Worth would be a good fit for this significant endeavor.

Monday’s event kicked off an intensive two-week assessment period for Fort Worth. During this time, every sector of the city will be assessed and evaluated.

“We need collaboration for a healthier environment,” said Barclay E. Berdan, chief operating officer for Texas Health Resources, which is funding the community assessment as part of its community benefit initiatives. “Together we are developing a new model for health services in North Texas, one that we believe will improve the health of the people in the communities we serve. By focusing on well-being with the Blue Zones Project, North Texas and Fort Worth, specifically, could become a model for other communities across the nation.”

Lessons for Living Longer from Around the World
Dan Buettner, a world-renowned explorer, New York Times best-selling author and National Geographic Fellow, was a featured speaker at Monday’s event. He has traveled the globe to uncover the best strategies for human longevity and happiness and he shared nine powerful yet simple lessons that can help put people on the path to a longer life.

Through his research across the world, Buettner identified Blue Zones areas — places where people reach age 100 in good health with greater frequency than anywhere else. Buettner, in partnership with Healthways, is applying the lessons from these Blue Zones areas to measurably transform the well-being of cities in California and the entire state of Iowa. Attendees at the meeting in Fort Worth learned what they can do to live longer and also how they can help with the Blue Zones Project assessment.

Mayor Betsy Price, an avid cyclist and fitness enthusiast, said Blue Zones could easily have generations’ worth of impact for the city. “Fort Worth would be on the cutting edge with this project,” she said. “I’m optimistic our leaders, the business community and our citizens will embrace this effort.”

Through a series of focus groups, face-to-face meetings, tours and site surveys the researchers will gather information which will aid them in making a recommendation if Fort Worth is ready to start the work toward becoming a Blue Zones community. The findings will be shared in early August.

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