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Fort Worth becomes nation’s largest Certified Blue Zones Community

Posted Nov. 6, 2018

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people cross a bridge
Residents were encouraged to organize a walking moai, a group of five to eight people who meet weekly to walk and socialize.

Well-being is at a new high in Fort Worth, as the city reaches a milestone in its efforts to become one of the nation’s healthiest communities.

After a five-year push to make healthy choices easier, Fort Worth has earned the title of Blue Zones Community. This designation reflects rigorously-measured improvements in the health and well-being of its residents as a result of successful, citywide implementation of Blue Zones Project.

Blue Zones Project is a community-led well-being improvement initiative based on creating permanent and semi-permanent changes to manmade surroundings that impact lifestyle and culture. The work of the project is based on an ongoing, 15-year study of the world’s longest-lived people. Fort Worth joins 19 cities across the country in earning the designation and is now the nation’s largest certified Blue Zones Community.

The city will mark the achievement with a free community celebration from 2-5 p.m. Nov. 10 at Will Rogers Memorial Center, 3401 W. Lancaster Ave. The event will include entertainment, fitness demonstrations, plant-slant snacks and refreshments, kids’ activities, community volunteer opportunities and more.

“Healthy cities are vibrant places where people want to live and companies want to relocate, and that describes Fort Worth now more than ever,” said Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price. “Through our health and well-being efforts, including the important work that has taken place with Blue Zones Project, we’re making healthy choices easier — and that’s driving real, positive change. We are already reaping the economic benefits that come with a healthy, thriving population.”

According to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index, the city’s overall 2018 Well-Being Index score rose to 62.5, a gain of nearly four points since 2014. Meanwhile the U.S. Well-Being Index score — which outpaced the Fort Worth score by 3 points in 2014 — is 61.3, a decline of 0.5 over the same period. Compared to the 190 largest metro areas reported nationally, Fort Worth’s equivalent rank for overall well-being rose from 185th in 2014 to 58th in 2017. Since 2014, Fort Worth has shown improvement in purpose, social, financial, community and physical well-being — all five of the core elements of well-being measured by the Gallup-Sharecare survey.

Making the healthy choice the easy choice

Mayor Price, Texas Health Resources, and the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce invited Blue Zones Project to Fort Worth in 2013, and the initiative has partnered with community leaders, neighborhoods, businesses, schools, grocery stores, restaurants and faith-based organizations to optimize the environment for well-being. Rather than relying solely on individuals to effect change, Blue Zones Project drives improvements to the places where people live, work and play, making the healthy choice the easy choice.

The initiative reflects lead sponsor Texas Health Resources’ commitment to look beyond simply responding to chronic disease and take an innovative, preventative approach to health care.

“Texas Health is investing in Blue Zones Project and other community-based initiatives that improve the health and well-being of residents by encouraging healthy habits,” said Barclay Berdan, CEO of Texas Health Resources, lead sponsor of Blue Zones Project, Fort Worth. “We think Blue Zones Project is a great example of one way we can go upstream to address social determinants of health. If we can address obstacles to well-being before someone becomes ill or develops a chronic condition, we can make Fort Worth the envy of cities across the country.”

Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bill Thornton agrees. “The positive changes that have taken place through Blue Zones Project have enhanced Fort Worth’s quality of life and made our city an even more attractive place for business and industry. A healthy population is a key element of a healthy economy.”

The five-year initiative was led by a local steering committee and modeled after best practices in Blue Zones regions and Blue Zones Project communities throughout the world. Fort Worth set goals to make it easier for residents to move naturally, eat better, develop healthy social circles and live with purpose.

More than 88,000 individuals have taken the Blue Zones Personal Pledge or participated in a Blue Zones Project activity. Over 300 businesses and organizations joined the movement and enhanced employee and customer well-being.

Areas of the city with the highest well-being disparities in 2014 now show the greatest gains. Notable community improvements include better access to fresh produce in food deserts and a citywide ordinance that bans smoking in bars, bingo parlors and public spaces.

“Fort Worth has made great strides in well-being, thanks to hundreds of partners working together with a unified vision to improve the health and well-being of every resident,” said Matt Dufrene, vice president of Blue Zones Project, Fort Worth. “We’ve given Fort Worth an incredible foundation for well-being for many years to come.”

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