How Blue Zones Can Transform a Community

from Todd LaPorte

Communities throughout the United States partner with Blue Zones to promote well-being by making lasting changes to policies and infrastructure where people spend the most time so that healthy choices are easier. The term “Blue Zones” comes from areas around the world where people live measurably longer and better-quality lives and is rooted in the explorations and research done by National Geographic Fellow Dan Buettner.

Earlier this year, the City of Scottsdale became the first community in Arizona to perform a Blue Zones assessment, with HonorHealth and the City of Scottsdale sponsoring that analysis. This is the first step on the journey to become a Blue Zones Community.

Worksites are a vital part of Blue Zones Communities. So are schools, restaurants, grocery stores, faith-based organizations, civic groups and municipal government. By involving a critical mass of people and organizations, Blue Zones helps maximize their collective impact and accomplishments by inspiring changes that makes a difference in the community. 

The assessment showed key findings that impact our worksites, some related to the COVID-19 pandemic and others related to ongoing challenges faced by businesses in our community. For example, mental health concerns have become more prevalent among workers since the onset of the pandemic. Small businesses have trouble providing employees with a wide range of well-being resources due to the costs, but they would like to provide those offerings to be more competitive. And while many large employers do offer wellness programs, engagement is an ongoing challenge and has worsened during the pandemic.

A Blue Zones transformation would help us build on our foundation to create a culture of well-being, which not only means healthier and happier people but also a better and more productive workforce and a more vibrant economy. Worksites could address some of the concerns identified by the assessment by joining the movement through the Blue Zones Worksite Pledge. Benefits to employers include increased productivity with lower turnover and a potential savings in healthcare costs. The worksites that choose to participate would have free access to experts, tools and resources of proven practices, hands-on support from the local Blue Zones Project team, clear metrics to measure actions and results, and more.

Seeking Stakeholders to Expand Blue Zones

What’s next in this process? The Blue Zones team has presented a plan that executes on a Scottsdale-specific blueprint with a dedicated local staff managed by the Blue Zones organization over the next five years. The aim is to have the learnings in Scottsdale be extrapolated to all of HonorHealth’s service area, and rally stakeholders in surrounding communities.

HonorHealth is currently socializing to various stakeholders the findings of the assessment and what the tactics and efforts might look like for Scottsdale (followed by surrounding areas) to be a national leader in well-being as defined by evidence-based measures. HonorHealth’s mission is to improve the health and well-being of those we serve, and we hope this proactive engagement will be joined by others and make the impact that we believe can be made.

We often say, “We are not just a hospital system anymore” with so many offerings outside pure medical care. Our extra outreach services to the community include our Desert Mission Food Bank, Adult Day Health Care, Military Partnership training programs and much more. All these efforts align with our mission. But we can’t do a Blue Zones transformation alone. We need partners that can commit to doing this work with us.

We hope the promise of a Blue Zones Community growing its roots in our backyard can, ultimately, benefit our entire State and improve not only workforces but also personal well-being.

Todd LaPorte is Chief Executive Officer at HonorHealth. With more than 35 years of diverse healthcare experience, Todd LaPorte leads the nonprofit, local community healthcare system that encompasses six acute-care hospitals, an extensive medical group, outpatient surgery centers, a cancer care network, clinical research, medical education, a foundation and community services.

See the full story: Ever-Changing Healthcare – The new impact healthcare is having on our companies and their people

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