NAPLES, Fla. and NASHVILLE, Tenn. (Oct. 24, 2014) - NCH Healthcare System, Blue Zones, LLC, and Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) today announced the launch of the Blue Zones Project®, a major initiative to improve the well-being and longevity of residents of Collier and South Lee Counties in Southwest Florida. The Blue Zones Project brings together citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders to improve the living environment so healthy choices are natural and often unavoidable. NCH is bringing the Blue Zones Project to Southwest Florida in support of its 10-year vision to make the region an even healthier, happier and more vibrant place to live.
The Blues Zones Project Naples Video"As a leading steward of our region's healthcare, NCH has a special responsibility to focus on population health and disease prevention," said Allen Weiss, M.D., president and chief executive officer of NCH Healthcare System. "Our intent is to collaborate with other Collier and South Lee County organizations, large and small, to begin this rigorous and worthwhile journey toward becoming a Blue Zone — an area in which residents live longer, happier, healthier lives."
The Blue Zones Project was born out of National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner's examination of communities across the globe where people were happily living the longest. Buettner uncovered nine evidence-based common denominators among these "Blue Zones," such as moving naturally and having a sense of purpose. Buettner partnered with Healthways in 2009 to bring the Blue Zones Project to the United States and help communities accelerate transformation through a comprehensive set of solutions designed to improve overall well-being. These solutions have measurably lowered healthcare costs, increased productivity, and improved the quality of life for residents in those communities.
The Blue Zones Project in Southwest Florida follows successful projects sponsored in Albert Lea, Minnesota; Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, California; and the state of Iowa. Additional initiatives recently launched in Fort Worth, Texas, and the state of Hawaii. The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® is the official measurement tool of the Blue Zones Project.
"I'm excited to work with NCH to blend proven Blue Zones approaches into the local traditions and practices already in place in Southwest Florida," said Buettner. "In Blue Zones, centenarians don't try to live to 100; rather, they live in cultures that make the healthy choice nearly inevitable. Our approach mirrors learnings from the initial Blue Zones communities in using evidence-based strategies to make the healthy choice easy. It's difficult to change individual behaviors when community behaviors stay the same, and while we support individual responsibility, we will focus on permanent changes to the environment that will benefit all of the residents of Collier and South Lee Counties."
As part of the Blue Zones Project, the counties will receive assistance from national experts to develop and implement a blueprint for making permanent environment, policy and social network changes that transition people into healthier behaviors. The project kicks off with a qualitative environmental analysis of the community that will take place between October 24 and November 7. During this period, the Blue Zones Project team will meet with key local leaders to identify the strengths and opportunities that will ultimately inform a phased implementation approach.
"Healthways commends NCH for its leadership in embracing innovative strategies such as the Blue Zones Project that enhance the quality of life of its constituents," said Healthways president and CEO Ben R. Leedle, Jr. "Improved well-being has been scientifically validated to improve health and lower costs, and sustained well-being transformation depends on having a built environment and social policies that support and reinforce well-being improvement programs. In our other Blue Zones Project communities, we have seen first-hand the impact that the Blue Zones Project has on community well-being, and we are excited to share this important work with Southwest Florida."
Collier and South Lee County residents interested in participating in the Blue Zones Project may learn more at https://collier.bluezonesproject.com.
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