Blue Zone Project Team Visits Oskaloosa

Community members and Blue Zone Project Team members gathered at the Musco Technology Center on the William Penn University campus Tuesday.

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Learning to live healthy may be more than diet and exercise, and with today’s visit from the Blue Zone Project Team, learning how to be healthier as a community became the focus.

The day started early when community leaders, employers, schools and the media gathered at the Musco Technology Center on the campus of William Penn University .

There, the presentation of community readiness, to be a Blue Zones Project Demonstration Site, was made by those representing those various groups.

What exactly is a Blue Zone?

According to the official Blue Zone website, “The Blue Zones Project is a collaboration between Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® and Healthways to help make Iowa #1 in the nation for well-being, as measured by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index®.”

“The Blue Zones Project™ is a community well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to environment, policy, and social networks.”

Everything about a community is evaluated. Not only obvious things like having healthy nutritional items become the default choice. This is accomplished over time and by having those choices presented in a way that attracts a person to the healthy choice, and making the less healthy choice less obvious.

A simple thought was coffee and donut time. At this point, because of society’s choices over time, we are accustomed to the pastry while having coffee at social events, but can that learned response be changed over time, and how are some of the questions being explored.

Even evaluating how we travel. Examples being roadways. Roadways have been designed for motor vehicle traffic use, but what if they were designed with all users in mind, such as those on bicycles and walking. Would those choices in design make it easier for people to utilize a bike, or to walk?

In order for Oskaloosa, or any other community, to become a Blue Zone Community, the requirements are:

  • At least 20% of citizens sign the Blue Zones Personal Pledge and complete one action.
  • Completion of the Blue Zones Community Policy Pledge.
  • At least 50% of the top twenty community-identified employers become a Blue Zones Worksite.
  • At least 25% of independently or locally owned restaurants become a Blue Zones Restaurant.
  • At least 25% of public schools become a Blue Zones School.
  • At least 25% of grocery stores become a Blue Zones Grocery Store.

Another fundamental portion of the Blue Zones is the Power 9.

1. Move Naturally – We can get more physical activity naturally if we live in walkable communities, de-convenience our homes and grow gardens.
2. Know your Purpose – People who know why they wake up in the morning live up to seven years longer than those who don’t.
3. Down Shift – To reverse inflammation related to every major age-related disease, find time each day to mediate, nap, pray or enjoy a happy hour.
4. 80% Rule – It takes your stomach 20 minutes to tell your brain it’s full, causing most people to accidentally overeat; so stop when you feel about 80% full.
5. Plant Slant – Eat mostly a plant-based diet heavy on beans, nuts and green plants. Eat meat in small portions (the size of a deck of cards) fewer than twice weekly.
6. Wine @ 5 – If you have a healthy relationship with alcohol, one to two glasses of wine daily will add years to your life, especially when consumed during a plant-based meal.
7. Right Tribe – Your friends have a long-term impact on your well-being. Expanding your social circle to include healthy-minded, supportive people might be the most powerful thing you can do to add years to your life.
8. Community – Research shows that attending faith-based services four times per month will add 4 – 14 years of life expectancy. It doesn’t matter what faith, what matters is that you attend regularly and truly feel part of a larger group.
9. Loved Ones First – Living in a thriving family is worth a half-dozen extra years of life expectancy. Invest time in your kids, nurture a monogamous relationship and keep your aging parents nearby.

Oskaloosa is one of 12 communities seeking to become a part of the Blue Zone Project. If selected, Oskaloosa would receive support in the form of paid positions to help develop environmental, social and policy changes which will support healthier behaviors leading to longer, happier lives, thus becoming a Blue Zone Community.

If selected, the Blue Zone Project would take place over 18 to 24 months.

Oskaloosa will find out if it’s selected to take part in the Blue Zones Project some time in January.

 

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