NASHVILLE, Tenn. & MINNEAPOLIS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Fort Worth, Texas, and Hawaii, have each taken significant steps toward becoming a Blue Zones Community™, an area in which citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders have come together to optimize residents’ longevity and well-being. Healthways, Inc. (NASDAQ: HWAY), and Blue Zones, LLC, have announced that Texas Health Resources and the Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) are pursuing Blue Zones Projects in their respective communities. The Blue Zones Project takes a systems approach to identifying and creating policies and programs that support community transformation. At the same time, Healthways and Blue Zones have agreed to a 10-year extension of their exclusive Blue Zones Project™ partnership, allowing the two organizations to continue their work in creating, supporting and sustaining a national movement to improve community health and well-being in the United States.
The Fort Worth, Texas and Hawaii collaborations follow the successful examples set by Blue Zones Project efforts in Iowa, where Healthways and Blue Zones partnered with Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield®, and in California’s Beach Cities of Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach, where Healthways and Blue Zones partnered with the Beach Cities Health District.
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. A team of medical researchers, anthropologists, demographers and epidemiologists uncovered nine evidence-based common denominators among these “Blue Zones,” such as moving naturally and having a sense of purpose. Buettner founded the Blue Zones organization to bring these secrets of longevity to the United States, partnering with Healthways in 2009 to 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.
“So many news stories take a cynical approach to the state of health and well-being in the United States. However, our work on the ground in these communities has shown us that Americans really embrace the concept of well-being improvement and get involved in making it happen when they have the type of resources that allow them to tap into a collective will,” said Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner. “American communities and their citizens are passionate about changing things for themselves and for their children’s future. We’re just lighting the lamps so individuals, businesses and local governments can see the path to long-term, meaningful improvement.”
The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index® is the official measurement tool of the Blue Zones Project. The core questions that make up the WBI survey were scientifically designed by some of the world’s leading experts in economics, psychology and health to thoroughly measure how respondents are faring in all aspects of their lives: physically, emotionally, socially and professionally, as well as to take a daily pulse of how respondents rate the overall quality of their current life and outlook for the future.
Research shows a strong link between well-being, healthcare costs and engagement in the work environment. Each point in well-being improvement equates to a statistically significant percent decrease in the likelihood of hospital admission and emergency room visits and in the likelihood of incurring healthcare costs1. For a community, the achievement of higher well-being for its citizens yields competitive advantage for economic development and job creation. For employers, it means greater productivity and better health in the workforce and dependent families, resulting in better business performance. For individuals, it simply means living well, longer.
Growing Momentum to Create a “New Normal” of Well-Being
Through the leadership of Texas Health Resources, Mayor Betsy Price, Councilman Dennis Shingleton and the Fort Worth Chamber, Fort Worth has been confirmed as a location for a Blue Zones Project beginning in 2014, with the right support structure in place to transform well-being in the community.
“Poor health results in $17 billion in lost productivity in Dallas-Fort Worth annually. We believe the Blue Zones Project will ensure Fort Worth’s continued population growth is stimulated by superior well-being and economic competitiveness. The Blue Zones Project is not only the right thing to do, it will benefit generations to come and set Fort Worth apart,” said Barclay Berdan, Texas Health Resources chief operating officer.
Even regions of historic higher well-being have room for improvement, and Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA) is committed to implementing the Blue Zones Project for the entire state of Hawaii in a phased approach as an example of just that. The initial collaboration with HMSA will include large employers and a select community within the state to lead the way, with the initial project launching in the first quarter of 2014.
“Although the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranks Hawaii as the state with the highest well-being, we are struggling with many of the same healthcare cost drivers as the rest of the country, such as smoking and increasing rates of obesity. We need to address these challenges locally, and the Blue Zones Project offers a real opportunity to achieve even greater well-being through a community-wide approach,” said Michael A. Gold, HMSA president and chief executive officer.
Leading by Example
Since their initial partnership agreement in 2009, Healthways and Blue Zones have successfully implemented the Blue Zones Project in the Beach Cities of Southern California and the entire state of Iowa. The outcomes from the three-year project in the Beach Cities are impressive and have been well documented, while early progress in Iowa has been both promising and inspiring.
Blue Zones and Healthways initially partnered with the Beach Cities Health District in Southern California to apply Blue Zones principles to Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach and Redondo Beach. The Blue Zones Project has supported residents in creating a more livable, walkable, bike-able and socially engaged community, engaging more than 15,000 people and more than 75 businesses and restaurants to adopt healthier practices.
Since 2010, residents of the Beach Cities have seen their well-being climb three points for an overall composite score of 76.4 as measured by the Well-Being Index, a rate that far exceeds what has been measured nationally and in the state of California during the same time frame.
Barry Fisher, owner of the GROW neighborhood market in Manhattan Beach, weighed in on the powerful impact that Blue Zones has had: “GROW’s experience becoming a Blue Zones Grocery Store was not only good for our customers but good for our family, our employees and our business. The process helped us learn more about the items we offer and give advice to customers to help them make a healthier choice when shopping. From a business stand point, the cross marketing of Blue Zone foods has helped our sales, but the Blue Zone labels in the shop have had the most positive effect for GROW. Combining the marketing Blue Zones Project has done in the Beach Cities to help improve the health of our citizens with their logo in our shop reaffirms to our customers that GROW cares about our community.”
Other Beach Cities outcomes include the following:
- Obesity dropped 14% with an estimated 1,645 fewer obese adults. Lost pounds translate to $2.35 million in healthcare-related savings for Beach Cities businesses and residents over two years.
- Smoking rates declined more than 30% or 3,484 fewer smokers. This decrease equates to $6.97 million in healthcare-related savings between 2010 and 2012.
- Exercise rates increased by more than 10% as more people reported exercising at least 30 minutes three times per week.
- Healthy eating habits improved 9%, with more people reporting eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetables four or more days in the past week.
Central to Governor Terry Branstad’s plan to make Iowa the healthiest state by 2016, the Blue Zones Project in Iowa represents the largest community well-being improvement initiative ever launched. Healthways, Blue Zones and Wellmark® Blue Cross® and Blue Shield® collaborated in rolling out the program in ten larger communities, which were selected after an open application process.
Not only did Iowa move up to the top ten of overall Well-Being Index state rankings in the nation between 2011 and 2012, but its Work Environment Index ranking drastically improved along with residents’ healthy eating behaviors. A greater number of Iowans also indicated that their community is “getting better as a place to live.” Blue Zones Project initiatives are on track to reach nearly 17 percent of Iowans by 2014.
Additional outcomes in Iowa include the following:
- 150,000+ Iowans have pledged to support the Blue Zones Project.
- 860+ worksites, restaurants, groceries and schools in Iowa are working to implement simple changes that improve well-being through the Blue Zones Project.
- 144 organizations have achieved designation as a Blue Zones Worksite, Blue Zones Grocery Store™, Blue Zones School™ or Blue Zones Restaurant.
Sustained Energy Through Renewed Partnership
According to Healthways president and chief executive officer Ben R. Leedle, Jr., signing a 10-year agreement extension with Blue Zones and Dan Buettner was an important strategic milestone for the company, which offers well-being improvement solutions along a broad continuum that includes purpose, social, financial, community and physical elements.
“If you are serious about population health management and changing the course of healthcare in this country, you quickly come to this realization: As powerful as individual well-being improvement programs can be, the degree of impact they can have is contained to an extent by environmental factors that are typically outside the control of any one individual or business. Sustained transformation depends on having a built environment and social policies that support and reinforce these programs. We have had the opportunity over the past few years to see first-hand the impact that the Blue Zones Project can have, and we wanted to ensure that we had a broad horizon for continuing to do this important work.
“Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index findings from the Beach Cities of Southern California and the state of Iowa confirm that we are measurably improving health and quality of life by taking a holistic approach to addressing not only physical health but also the social and emotional factors that are pivotal to overall well-being. The long-term extension of Healthways’ partnership with Dan Buettner and Blue Zones allows us to make the most of our collective abilities to engage whole environments and successfully accelerate transformation, and we look forward to expanding this work across the country over the next decade.”
Healthways (NASDAQ: HWAY) is the largest independent global provider of well-being improvement solutions. Dedicated to creating a healthier world one person at a time, the Company uses the science of behavior change to produce and measure positive change in well-being for our customers, which include employers, integrated health systems, hospitals, physicians, health plans, communities and government entities. We provide highly specific and personalized support for each individual and their team of experts to optimize each participant’s health and productivity and to reduce health-related costs. Results are achieved by addressing longitudinal health risks and care needs of everyone in a given population. The Company has scaled its proprietary technology infrastructure and delivery capabilities developed over 30 years and now serves approximately 45 million people on four continents. Learn more at www.healthways.com.
About Blue Zones®
Blue Zones employs evidence-based ways to help people live longer, better. Its work is rooted in The New York Times best-selling books The Blue Zones and Thrive, published by National Geographic books. In 2009, Blue Zones applied the tenets of the books to Albert Lea, Minn., raising life expectancy and lowering healthcare costs for city workers by 40 percent. Blue Zones takes a systematic, environmental approach to wellbeing, which focuses on optimizing policy, building design, social networks, and the built environment. For more information, visit www.bluezones.com.
1 “Evaluation of the Relationship Between Individual Well-Being and Future Health Care Utilization and Cost” Population Health Management, Volume 15, Number 00 2012. Patricia L. Harrison, MPH, James E. Pope, MD, Carter R. Coberley, PhD, and Elizabeth Y. Rula, PhD.