Blue Zones Project Celebration
When: Nov. 10, 2 to 5 p.m.
Where: Will Rogers Memorial Center
Parking: Free at Farrington Field and UNT Health Science Center
More information: go.bluezonesproject.com/celebrate
City, school district hit Blue Zones milestones
Fort Worth earns designation as a Blue Zones Community and the Fort Worth ISD becomes nation’s largest Blue Zones Project Approved school
Rick Mauch and Paul Harral
After a five-year campaign to make healthy choices easier for everyone in Fort Worth, the city of Fort Worth has earned the designation as a Blue Zones Community and the Fort Worth Independent School District has been named a Blue Zones Project Approved worksite.
“Fort Worth has made great strides in well-being, thanks to hundreds of partners working together with a unified vision to improve the health and well-being of every resident,” said Matt Dufrene, vice president of the Blue Zones Project-Fort Worth. “We’ve given Fort Worth an incredible foundation for well-being for many years to come.”
In connection with this honor, Dufrene briefed the city council on the Blue Zones Project at its Oct. 30 work session.
Being a Blue Zones Community reflects rigorously measured improvements in the health and well-being of residents as a result of citywide implementation of the Blue Zones Project. Blue Zones is a community-led well-being improvement initiative based on creating permanent and semi-permanent changes to man-made surroundings that impact lifestyle and culture.
The work of the project is based on an ongoing, 15-year study of the world’s longest-lived people. Fort Worth joins 19 U.S. cities in earning the designation and, with the latest census of over 874,00 residents, is now the nation’s largest certified Blue Zones Community.
Avid bicycle rider and Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price, a driving force behind the project, said people want to live in healthy cities, and companies want to come to them.
“That describes Fort Worth now more than ever,” she said. “We are already reaping the economic benefits that come with a healthy, thriving population.”
According to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, the city’s overall 2018 Well Being Index score rose to 62.5, a gain of nearly 4 points since 2014. Meanwhile the U.S. Well-Being Index score – which outpaced the Fort Worth score by 3 points in 2014 – fell to 61.3 over the same period, Blue Zones said in the news release.
Compared with almost 190 metro areas reported nationally, Fort Worth’s equivalent rank for overall well-being rose from 185th in 2014 to 58th in 2017. Since 2014, Fort Worth has shown improvement in all five core elements of well-being measured by the Gallup-Sharecare survey — purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being.
“Fort Worth’s latest jump in well-being, as the U.S. continues to decline, securely establishes it as a best practice example of what a community can accomplish when it sustains a focused commitment to well-being,” said Dan Witters, principal at Gallup.
Price, Texas Health Resources and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce invited Blue Zones Project to Fort Worth in 2013, and the initiative has partnered with community leaders, neighborhoods, businesses, schools, grocery stores, restaurants and faith-based organizations to optimize the environment for well-being. Rather than relying solely on individuals to effect change, Blue Zones Project drives improvements to the places where people live, work, and play, making the healthy choice the easy choice, it says.
More than 88,000 people have taken the Blue Zones Personal Pledge or participated in a Blue Zones Project activity. Over 300 businesses and organizations joined the movement and enhanced employee and customer well-being.
Notable community improvements include better access to fresh produce in food deserts and a city ordinance that bans smoking in bars, bingo parlors and public spaces.
FORT WORTH ISD
The city’s announcement came on the heels of news that the Fort Worth school district with 12,000 employees and nearly 88,000 students in now the largest school district in the country to become a Blue Zones Project Approved worksite.
Many FWISD employees have gotten involved in the initiative, Blue Zones Project Fort Worth said in a news release.
“Blue Zones is making a real difference when it comes to the health and happiness of our residents, and I’m proud to lend my support,” said School Superintendent Kent P. Scribner. “What’s happening benefits families today and lays the groundwork for better well-being for generations to come.”
To become Blue Zones Project Approved, the school district completed the Blue Zones Worksite Pledge, adding to its existing wellness program. Changes include forming a well-being advisory committee, hosting plant-based cooking demonstrations, and supporting walking and standing meetings, among other best practices.
In addition, 33 FWISD campuses are Blue Zones Project Approved schools. They are organizing Walking School Buses, incorporating movement into lessons throughout the day, adding more fresh produce to the lunch menu and teaching children downshifting techniques.
Students are even leading efforts as Blue Zones Project junior ambassadors.
“Healthy behaviors and academic success go hand in hand,” said Dufrene. “We also know that if we want our communitywide efforts to be sustainable, we have to engage the next generation. That’s what we’re doing in Fort Worth ISD.”
COMMITMENT TO HEALTH
The initiative reflects the commitment of the local lead sponsor, Texas Health Resources, to look beyond simply responding to chronic disease and to take an innovative, preventive approach to health care, Blue Zones said.
“Texas Health is investing in Blue Zones Project and other community-based initiatives that improve the health and well-being of residents by encouraging healthy habits,” said Barclay Berdan, CEO of Texas Health Resources.
“We think Blue Zones Project is a great example of one way we can go upstream to address social determinants of health. If we can address obstacles to well-being before someone becomes ill or develops a chronic condition, we can make Fort Worth the envy of cities across the country,” Berdan said.
“The positive changes that have taken place through Blue Zones Project have enhanced Fort Worth’s quality of life and made our city an even more attractive place for business and industry. A healthy population is a key element of a healthy economy,” said Bill Thornton, CEO and president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce.
“Fort Worth has made great strides in well-being, thanks to hundreds of partners working together with a unified vision to improve the health and well-being of every resident,” said Dufrene. “We’ve given Fort Worth an incredible foundation for well-being for many years to come.”
HOW IT STARTED
Blue Zones Project was established in 2010. It was inspired by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author, who identified five cultures around the world – called “Blue Zones” – with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older.
The label “Blue Zones” came out of the original research where the investigators drew concentric blue circles on maps highlighting villages of extreme longevity.
Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner’s findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being.
Currently, 47 communities in 10 states have joined Blue Zones Project, affecting more than 3.4 million people nationwide. Along with Fort Worth, the movement includes two health districts in California; 15 cities in Iowa; the City of Albert Lea, Minnesota; and communities in southwest Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon and Wisconsin.
Blue Zones Project is a partnership of Blue Zones LLC and Sharecare Inc. For more information, visit:
– FWBP Staff