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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Blue Zones in Klamath Falls - An Oregon First


Blue Zones in Klamath Falls

An Oregon First

Story by Lynn Leissler

Photography provided by Blue Zones


Klamath Falls recently became a Blue Zones demonstration community, the first in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Blue Zones Project is a community-by-community initiative designed to enable people to live longer, happier, higher quality lives with lower rates of chronic disease.

Developed by Dan Buettner, National Geographic explorer and author, the project offers tips, resources, and encouragement based on nine common principles found among the world’s longest living people. Highlights include moving naturally, eating mindfully, making time to de-stress, prioritizing family, and being surrounded by people who value and reinforce physical, emotional and community health. The project supports social, environmental, and policy change, according to Engagement Lead Cort Cox, “helping families, employers, grocers, and public leaders create spaces and places that encourage healthier, more balanced living.”

The Klamath Falls project plans events that create awareness, a first step in establishing new patterns, by utilizing positive social networks. Health habits tend to be contagious. Community Program Manager Jessie DuBose says the goal for the three-year initiative is to “make Klamath Falls a community where the healthy choice is the easy choice in all the places people live, work, learn, and play.”

As well as working with individuals, Blue Zones also works with city and county governments, offering information, recommendations and support in formulating polices that create better opportunities for residents to engage in healthy activities. Such policies include bike paths, accessible trails, and sidewalks. In the private sector, employers create environments that meet their employees’ physical and emotional needs. Restaurants offer menu options inspired by Blue Zones Healthy Dish Guidelines, making it easier for a patron to order healthy. Schools may change cafeteria selections to those grounded in wellness models. Grocery stores can offer better food choices, posting such options to help shoppers take the guesswork out of their selections. Markets may also offer cooking demonstrations, healthy grab-and-go lunches, and a checkout lane lined with fruits and veggies instead of candy. While these models benefit the consumer, the provider sees benefit as well—satisfied customers come back.

The Klamath Falls project includes five staff members and a steering committee of almost two dozen. Myriad volunteers round out the team. As in any program designed to make change at basic levels, people need support as they establish new habits. Cox describes moais (mow-eyes), a Japanese concept of groups coming together around a common cause. Thus, people will be encouraged to gather for interests such as walking groups, faith-based communities, growing and preparing their home-grown foods, and support groups focused on finding purpose in their lives and encouragement along the journey. 

Blue Zones Project comes to Oregon through Cambia Health Foundation in collaboration with Healthways Inc. and Blue Zones, LLC. Sky Lakes Medical Center is also providing funding.

As Blue Zones designates more communities in the Northwest, those involved in Klamath Falls will stand tall, proud to have been a model.





For more information:

Cort Cox, Engagement Lead


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