Well-Being Transformation Initiative in South Phoenix

by Mike Hunter

Equality Health Foundation, UnitedHealthcare Community Plan of Arizona, and Valley of the Sun United Way recently launched a new Blue Zones Activate effort, a comprehensive policy-based initiative that uses an evidence-based approach to make the healthy choice the easy choice in all the places people spend the most time. 

The 15-year gap in life expectancy between South Phoenix and North Scottsdale has been exacerbated by COVID. Blue Zones Activate begins with the Blue Zones team providing an in-depth assessment of the South Phoenix area that will help determine how to make it a healthier place to live, work and thrive.

Blue Zones employs a proven solution in collaboration with communities to help people live better and longer. The company’s work is based on research and principles developed by Dan Buettner, National Geographic Fellow and New York Times bestselling author, who identified the cultures of the world — or blue zones — with the healthiest, longest-living populations.

Data published by the Centers for Disease Control shows that where people live has greater influence on health than genetics. According to a study by the Virginia Commonwealth University and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, depending on where a person lives in Phoenix, life expectancy ranges from 71 to 85 years; many of the zip codes with the lowest life expectancies in the region are in South Phoenix. Blue Zones tackles this “zip code effect” using scientifically proven lessons of longevity, health and happiness gleaned from 20 years of research to boost the well-being of entire communities. 

The first phase is a community and leadership readiness and prospective transformation feasibility assessment by the Blue Zones team, made up of global experts in food systems, built environment, tobacco, alcohol, health equity, workforce development and happiness. Blue Zones experts will then work with leaders and residents to build a solution and evidence-based plan for change that can drive widespread improvements in well-being, reductions in health-related costs, and improve economic vitality in the region.

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