TD named as Blue Zone site

Aiming for a “community transformation,” a health-promotion organization has selected The Dalles as its newest Blue Zones Project demonstration site.

The Blue Zones Project is a community health and well-being initiative built upon longevity lessons learned from people who live the longest, happiest, healthiest lives, a project official said earlier.

Also named Thursday as Blue Zones Projects were Grants Pass and the Umpqua region that includes Roseburg. They will join Klamath Falls, which became a Blue Zones site over a year ago.

The Dalles applied to be a Blue Zone site last fall.

The three-year project is “designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city’s environment, policy and social networks,” a press release stated.

Goals are lower health care costs, reduced chronic illness, boosting productivity and increasing civic engagement, the release stated.

Teri Thalhofer, director of the North Central Public Health District, said, “NCPHD, along with our partners, are thrilled to have the opportunity to add valuable resources to improve health in The Dalles. The Blue Zones has a proven track record. We're very excited to accelerate the work!”

So far, 31 communities in eight states have joined Blue Zones Project. In some sites, employers report reduced absenteeism, reduced smoking, more walking, and healthier restaurant menus and grocery store choices. Schools implemented “walking school buses.”

Thalhofer said the health district is “part of the coalition of community partners that worked on the application and have pledged in-kind resources to the efforts. This work aligns perfectly with our strategic plan.”

The work will begin in May with information-gathering activities, the press release stated. The press release came from Oregon Healthiest State, which is leading the Blue Zones effort, with significant funding from the Cambia Health Foundation.

The Blue Zones program costs $833,000 a year for three years. Participating communities must contribute $200,000 the first year and $300,000 a year for the final two years.

Over the three years, Cambia Health Foundation contributes $1,699,000. The total three-year project cost is $2.5 million

A variety of private and public entities have pledged the first $200,000 in The Dalles.

The money goes toward a variety of tasks, including community well-being assessments, a local website, strategic planning, extensive marketing and community engagement, and access to national experts in food, tobacco and built-environment policy. The program also pays for four to five locally-hired staff.

The Blue Zones Project is based on the work of a man who searched the globe for where people lived the longest, and found five “longevity hotspots.” These long-lived groups had certain commonalities that included not only eating healthy and being active, but also staying connected with family and friends, having life purpose and spirituality, and even drinking wine daily.

Oregon Healthiest State said in the press release that “more than 70 percent of our health is influenced by our behaviors and surroundings, while just 30 percent is influenced by genetics and access to health care. That 70 percent is where Oregon Healthiest State focuses its attention.”

It addresses well-being on all levels — physical, mental, emotional, social, financial and sense of purpose.

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Clips from oil train fire in Mosier, Friday, June 3, 2016. by Mark B. Gibson/The Dalles Chronicle. Enlarge

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