HonorHealth officials spearhead Blue Zones project in Scottsdale
By Terrance Thornton | Digital Free Press
On Wednesday, Aug. 30, the digital streaming platform Netflix is releasing ‘Live to 100: Secrets of the Blue Zones’ in the United States and what some in Scottsdale may not know is their community is forging ahead with efforts to improve the quality of life for all.
Earlier this year, HonorHealth and the city of Scottsdale joined forces to bring to life practices, policies and pontificates of why folks in certain areas of the world live much longer than others.
The program “Blue Zones Activate” is a three-phase program based on principles identified during a 20-year worldwide longevity study commissioned by National Geographic and detailed in the New York Times bestseller “The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer from the People Who’ve Lived the Longest and The Blue Zones Solution” by Dan Buettner.
Naomi Imatome-Yun, who serves as editor-in-chief at Blue Zones, told the Arizona Digital Free Press during the partnership announcement, the research of the effort points to tangible practices for real outcomes for Americans.
“The research itself is life-changing. It is the allocation of new research. Blue Zones approach is built to allow cities to improve,” she said. “We all live in America but in terms of health we are not in the best shape compared to the rest of the world.”
Ms. Imotome-Yun is no stranger to the world of wellness serving previously as managing editor at Forks Over Knives and is a best-selling Wall Street Journal author in her own right.
At the local level, Sarah Kearney is serving as executive director of the Blue Zones Project — Scottsdale.
“We are thrilled to be able to share the Blue Zones story through this Netflix documentary as we continue to educate, inform and inspire people around the world about the benefits of making healthy choices to live healthy lives,” she said. “The timing of the Netflix documentary release for Scottsdale is ideal. Not only will it increase awareness of the Blue Zones Project around the Valley, it will be another step on our journey to our upcoming celebratory kick-off in January.”
HonorHealth reports the Blue Zones assessment found the following strengths and opportunities in the Scottsdale community:
- Operational: The coordination and commitment of leading organizations across all sectors is a strong indicator of readiness.
- Infrastructure: The accessibility of the McDowell Sonoran Preserve and “Greenbelt” already provide opportunities to leverage. There are additional opportunities to create nudges in the built and natural environment to further encourage more daily natural movement.
- Food and agriculture: There can be a thriving array of health food initiatives that address food access, food skills, food infrastructure and food culture. Scottsdale Unified School District’s school gardens already show a commitment to nutrition and access.
- Mental health: This was identified as a key issue by numerous focus groups from worksites to schools. Opportunities exist to leverage current capabilities like HonorHealth’s Via Linda Behavioral Hospital, to strengthen social and emotional health through a sense of purpose (volunteerism), and to connect social services better by partnering with the city, worksites, civic organizations and faith-based communities.
Ms. Kearney says she hopes the Blue Zones message — delivered through a popular digital medium — resonates with Scottsdale residents.
“However people get introduced to the Blue Zones message, we hope that they will see and understand that improved health and longevity is possible by making simple changes in their physical and social environments,” she explained. “Our goal is to help them incorporate the common traits that we’ve analyzed from places in the world were people are living longer, happier lives without chronic diseases.”
Some could argue the quality of life is A-OK within municipal bounds of Scottsdale, and while Ms. Kearney says she agrees with that notion — chronic disease, and, in particular, loneliness continue to riddle local communities, and ‘The West’s Most Western Town’ is no exception.
“Some would say that Scottsdale is doing well, but we should always be working to improve the well-being among our residents,” she explained. “A recent study showed that nearly 25% of city of Scottsdale residents said that they sometimes or rarely had someone to turn to in the last year. Social connection and community building is just one of the pillars of the Blue Zones message and that’s why we are so excited to work alongside the residents of Scottsdale to promote healthy living.”
Goals, challenges and the path toward Blue Zones in Scottsdale
Ms. Kearney explains the ideas fueling the Blue Zones Project are backed by years of research and scientific scrutiny.
“The Blue Zones Project seeks to improve the overall wellbeing of residents measured by overall physical, social and emotional health,” she pointed out.
“We do this by taking a unique approach to improving well-being by helping people focus on what we call their ‘life-radius’, the places that they spend about 90% of their time. If you think about it, we all have a life radius and if we can make small changes as individuals in the places that we live, work, learn and play, that will make a huge difference for all of us in Scottsdale.”
On an annual basis, it is estimated more than 600,000 Americans die as a result of poor diet and lifestyle choices.
“HonorHealth is confident that the Blue Zones Project can have a profound impact on Scottsdale and beyond based upon the results that have been seen in other cities and counties where it has been implemented across the country,” said Michelle Pabis, VP of government and community affairs at HonorHealth.
“By focusing on making permanent and semi-permanent changes to the Life Radius, the area close to home where people spend 90% of their lives, Blue Zones has helped communities achieve measurable improvements in its residents’ health including double-digit drops in chronic disease rates, better health equity for all and measurable savings in healthcare costs.”
Ms. Pabis offers a new perspective emerging at HonorHealth regarding the whole wellness of a parson.
“We understand that our communities need more than just high-quality medical care to be truly healthy. Blue Zones Project Scottsdale allows for a community-wide well-being improvement initiative designed to make lasting changes to the environment in which people live, work, and play so that healthy choices are the easy choices,” she said.
HonorHealth has served the Scottsdale community, as the largest employer and healthcare provider, for more than 60 years with a steadfast commitment to improving the health and well-being of those we serve.
Ms. Pabis reports positive community reaction as Blue Zones Project — Scottsdale begins to take shape.
“There is a lot of enthusiasm for Blue Zones Project Scottsdale from residents, worksites, schools, civic groups and others as we work through the foundation period this year and develop a blueprint for action to achieve Blue Zones certification over the next four years,” she said. “HonorHealth is honored to be a part of this global movement with the City of Scottsdale and our partners at Cigna and Goodwill of central and northern Arizona. This demonstrates our commitment to go beyond the traditional expectations of a healthcare system and truly transform health and well-being.”
The wellbeing of a person, Ms. Pabis explains, goes beyond vital signs within normal parameters.
“Wellbeing includes not just physical health, but social, financial, mental and community health,” she said. “Higher wellbeing leads to lower healthcare costs, higher productivity and increased economic vitality, and offers benefits for everybody. Blue Zones Project Scottsdale is based on research and principles developed by studying cultures of the world—or blue zones—with the healthiest, longest-living populations.”