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Big Island ‘Blue Zones Project’ Demonstration Communities

February 17, 2015, 10:37 AM HST
* Updated February 17, 10:39 AM
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Three Hawai’i communities have been selected as Hawai’i’s first Blue Zones Project Demonstration Communities, two of which are on the Big Island.

East Hawai’i and North Hawai’i, along with Windward Oahu, were announced as the sites by the HMSA and the Blue Zones Project at a ceremony in Hilo Friday morning.

Along with Kauai, who became a Blue Zone Project pilot community in 2013, these three communities will make up the Blue Zone Project Hawai’i group.

“Blue Zones Project has a proven track record,” HMSA Chief Transformation Officer Michael Stollar said. “In Iowa, Minnesota and California, Blue Zone Communities have lowered their healthcare costs, increased productivity and measurably improved the quality of life for their residents. Evidence like this shows that we have a tremendous opportunity to invest in the health and well-being of Hawai’i.”

The projects work towards bringing together citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores, and community leaders to improve the living environment so that healthy choices are not only easy,  but often unavoidable.

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Applications were due last September for communities interested in earning the Blue Zones Project certification. The communities selected will now work with national experts in order to develop and implement a blueprint for permanent environmental, social, and policy changes that will result in healthier behaviors and longer, happier lives.

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“We all recognize that we can’t tackle the global or national healthcare crisis, but we can start with ourselves, with our neighborhoods, with our community,” said Hawai’i County Mayor Billy Kenoi. “We’re excited about taking the lessons of the original Blue Zone areas and making them work here in Hawai’i. What’s powerful about Blue Zones Project is its simplicity. When you look at healthcare it’s almost like complex calculus, but when you explore Blue Zones Project and getting healthy, it’s simple addition.”

National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner began Blue Zones Project after examining communities throughout the world where people live happy, long lives. He uncovered nine evidence-based common denominators among these “Blue Zones,” like moving naturally and having a sense of purpose.

“I have spent a considerable amount of time in Hawai’i over the past few years as we’ve begun to lay the groundwork for bringing Blue Zones Project to the state, and I am very excited about the potential for a statewide transformation,” Buettner said. “Pursuing this designation is a competitive process, and all three communities have demonstrated their readiness. Now the hard but rewarding work begins as they pursue change in policies, social networks and the built environment that will lead to a healthier Hawai’i.”

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In 2009, Buettner partnered with Healthways, Inc., which brought the project to the United States.

“With Blue Zones Project, we are working to not only improve individual well-being but also optimize community-wide well-being by collaborating with residents, businesses and community leaders on long-term initiatives to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” said Ben R. Leedle, Jr., president and chief executive officer of Healthways. “We’ve seen the power of this proven well-being improvement initiative in other communities, and we look forward to getting started in East Hawaii, North Hawaii and Ko`olaupoko.”

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