Klamath Falls was selected as Oregon's first Blue Zones Project (BZP) demonstration community with the goal of improving health/well-being by influencing people, places, and policies.
Use of Theory or Research
According to author Dan Buettner, “blue zones” are geographically-defined areas where people live longer, high-quality lives. Buettner identified common attributes in these regions–moving naturally, having the right outlook, eating wisely, and maintaining social connections. The BZP was designed from this research. Klamath Falls was selected because of poor health indicators coupled with a readiness to undertake a large-scale initiative.
The target audience was all residents in the rural community of Klamath Falls, approximately 20,000 people.
The BZP was administered by community teams consisting of a steering committee and sector committee chairs that developed goals, objectives, and action plans to achieve benchmarks. Teams collaborated with sectors (schools, worksites, restaurants, grocery stores, media, and faith-based groups) to earn BZP certification by implementing best-practice strategies for healthier choices.
BZP teams measured progress towards the goal of achieving community-wide Blue Zones certification in 3 years by collecting data on benchmarks including number of certified sectors, number of policies adopted, improvement in well-being, and other measures of community health and vitality.
After 3 years, the BZP had measurable impacts that include 20 polices addressing the built environment, food system, or tobacco; an online farmers’ market that accepts food benefits; reopening of a shuttered grocery store by county government; and decrease in tobacco use. Klamath Falls did not receive Blue Zones’ community certification due to insufficient improvement in well-being. However, Klamath County won the Robert Wood Johnson Culture of Health Prize, in part, because of BZP outcomes and the level of community collaboration.
The BZP is 1 example of a community-wide initiative that can positively influence people, places and policies. Strong collaboration across multiple sectors is needed to improve the health and well-being of a community.