In effort to promote longer, healthier lives, local health partnership to explore Blue Zones | SteamboatToday.com

In effort to promote longer, healthier lives, local health partnership to explore Blue Zones

The Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership is exploring whether the concepts of Blue Zones might lead to longer, happier, more active lives in Steamboat Springs.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership is hoping to become the vehicle that will carry people in mountain communities to longer, better lives.

"We will have an opportunity to learn more in-depth about the Blue Zones Demonstration Projects and have the opportunity to really discuss … and see if this makes sense for Northwest Colorado," said Stephanie Monahan, regional health connector for Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnership. "Is this something really that the community is interested in? Is there passion and energy to really transform population health."

In an effort to fuel those ideas and answer those questions, the organization will host an event from noon to 2 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Chief Theatre in downtown Steamboat Springs.

A Blue Zones Community is an area in which citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders have come together to optimize residents' longevity and well-being through a systematic, environmental approach to identifying and creating policies and programs that support community transformation, according to the group’s website.

The hope is to introduce the community to the concepts expressed in Blue Zones Demonstration Projects and gauge interest in making the community a demonstration sight in the United States.

"We are happy to be the vehicle that brings this opportunity to Northwest Colorado, but really, it is up to our community and our residents to really decide if this is right for Northwest Colorado and if it makes sense," Monahan said. "The partnership is committed, if the community wants it, to make sure it happens." 

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Monahan said there are currently several demonstration sights across the U.S. including one in Iowa, one in Minnesota, one in Florida and some in Northern California.

"These communities have seen really great success in terms of reducing substance abuse, reducing mental health issues and reducing childhood obesity," she said. "These are some pretty significant population health measures that we all want for our community and our residents."

The presentation in Steamboat Springs will feature Tony Buettner, VP of operations for Blue Zones. He was in Colorado to present during the Colorado Hospital Association meeting, and Ken Davis and NCCHP were able to convince him to come to Steamboat for the community presentation.

"We are very excited to bring Tony here from Blue Zones to talk more about the project and kind of help us gauge if this would be an exciting project and endeavor to take on here in Northwest Colorado," Monahan said.

Buettner brings direct knowledge and insight of the principals behind Blue Zones. He gained that experience during his participation on expeditions with Dan Buettner, his brother, and his more-than 30 years of world travel, bringing pertinent experience in the understanding of health and wellness as it relates to populations and cultures.

Dan Buettner wrote, "The Secrets of a Long Life," which appeared on the cover of National Geographic in 2005. The article  identified five geographic areas in which people live statistically the longest. But, more importantly, the research for the article examined the characteristics those populations shared and came up with nine characteristics that all shared. Those principals form the foundation for the Buettner's approach to community health.

Davis said everyone understands that where they live, their environment and their behaviors factor into the overall health of the community. He said the Northwest Colorado Community Health Partnerships felt it was essential to explore this internationally proven approach for Northwest Colorado.

"In my eyes, the beauty and simplicity of this framework is that people are already doing some of these things anyway. It’s really just about strengthening and solidifying the community connections and how engaged we feel as residents of our community," Monahan said. "This learning opportunity is free. We want everyone to know about the Blue Zones Framework.

“We, as the Northwest Colorado Health Community Partnership, will be working for the next few months to figure out the viability of our region becoming a demonstration sight. There are significant cost to maintain the fidelity of the framework. We will be partnering to bring those tool and resources to Northwest Colorado."

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.

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