Pottawatomie County Becomes First Certified Blue Zones Community® in Oklahoma

 

Using secrets discovered in the original blue zones—rare longevity hotspots around the world where people are thriving into their 100s—we help people live longer, better®  through community transformation programs that lower healthcare costs, improve productivity, and boost national recognition as great places to live, work, and play.

Pottawatomie County is now a certified Blue Zones Community®, the first in the state of Oklahoma. Pottawatomie County residents are now healthier, smoking rates are now lower, students are now more active, and people report greater community pride than before.

“I am so proud of the entire Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County team. Every project leader, volunteer, business partner, and our entire community worked together to become a certified Blue Zones Community,” said Shawnee Mayor Ed Bolt. “It is certainly an honor for Shawnee and Pottawatomie County to achieve this milestone.”

I am so proud of the entire Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County team. Every project leader, volunteer, business partner, and our entire community worked together to become a certified Blue Zones Community. —Shawnee Mayor Ed Bolt Click To Tweet
Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal Chairman John “Rocky” Barrett (L) and Shawnee Mayor Ed Bolt (R) accept the Certified Blue Zones Community® seal on behalf of Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma. Photo credit: Kent Workman

Brought to Pottawatomie County through an innovative sponsorship by the Avedis Foundation, the local Blue Zones Project initiative encourages Pottawatomie County to optimize its surroundings to make the healthy choice the easy choice. The project is a privately led, publicly endorsed initiative intended to inspire community members to improve their well-being.

“We are proud of the residents of Pottawatomie County for their commitment to make well-being a way of life,” said Avedis Foundation president and CEO Kathy Laster, Ph.D. “This significant achievement required tremendous effort from the entire community, and the policies and programs implemented in Pottawatomie County will also serve as inspiring examples for other communities to follow.”

Since 2017, local leaders, volunteers, and organizations throughout Pottawatomie County have been working to achieve certification status. As a result of its efforts, Pottawatomie County can celebrate the following outcomes:

  • Blue Zones Project Approved™ worksite Gordon Cooper Technology Center experienced a 38% increase in employee participation in their well-being program; and a 17% increase in employees completing the program requirements; 13% increase in employee biometric screening participation; and 20% decrease in employees with a red BMI rating (indicating obesity).
  • Other Blue Zones Project Approved worksites also enjoyed positive outcomes, with more than a third of SSM Health St. Anthony – Shawnee employees completing the Blue Zones Personal Pledge, and Georg Fischer Central Plastic reporting a 600% increase in the number of employees utilizing fitness center benefits (from 18 employees to 113), while costs associated with absenteeism decreased significantly.
  • Students from schools participating in the Walking School Bus program walked 7,818 miles in 2019.
  • Local restaurants have added more than 70 plant-based items to their menus.
  • Blue Zones Project and community partners successfully leveraged $115,500 in grant funding for projects including Safe Routes to Parks, school and community gardens, and Veggie Rx.
  • According to the Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the rate of cigarette smoking among Pottawatomie County youth (ages 13 – 17 years old) declined from 12.5% in 2017 to 9.1% in 2018, while many of the Blue Zones Project approved worksites have adopted tobacco-free policies and/or enjoy tobacco-free campuses.
  • 329 residents volunteered with Blue Zones Project, totaling more than 2,557 volunteer hours which equates to more than 106 days of volunteering.

Pottawatomie County achieved Blue Zones Community status after reaching the following key milestones, all of which are required improvement goals for Blue Zones Project demonstration communities to receive certification:

  • 50% of the top 20 identified worksites became Blue Zones Project Approved™.
  • 25% of schools became approved.
  • 25% of restaurants became approved.
  • 25% of grocery stores became approved.
  • 50% of the top 20 identified faith-based organizations became approved
  • 25% of citizens have committed to the Blue Zones Project and completed at least one well-being improvement action.
  • More than 5,000 individuals have taken the Blue Zones Personal Pledge.
  • The community has successfully completed the Blue Zones Community Policy® bundle.

Residents engaged with Blue Zones Project experience higher overall well-being than those not as engaged, with 69% of those engaged reporting that they are thriving in their life self-evaluation. Conversely, only 48% of those not as engaged in Blue Zones Project reported they are thriving.

Additionally, the 2019 CWBI survey findings confirm that Shawnee outperformed Oklahoma state trends in four key areas of health risk: poor nutrition, lack of exercise, lack of purpose and dissatisfaction with standard of living.

Since Blue Zones Project was introduced in Shawnee in 2017, community well-being – liking where you live, feeling safe, and having pride in community – has significantly improved, and purpose, social, and financial well-being have held steady. In contrast, community well-being has been unchanged nationally since 2017.

“We know that communities with greater well-being have lower healthcare costs, higher productivity and are recognized among the best places to live, work and play,” said Michael Acker, senior vice president and general manager of Blue Zones Project by Sharecare. “With a strong focus on well-being improvement throughout the community, Pottawatomie County has proven they are dedicated to the health of their residents along with the economic and social vitality of the community.”

We know that communities with greater well-being have lower healthcare costs, higher productivity and are recognized among the best places to live, work and play. —Michael Acker, SVP and GM of Blue Zones Project by Sharecare Click To Tweet

Related Articles

  • Dan Buettner Blue Zones

    In 2004, Dan Buettner teamed up with National Geographic and the world’s best longevity researchers…

  • The Secrets of the Blue Zones

    Have you ever wondered if maintaining a constant state of health and happiness is attainable?…

  • On Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad announced the nation’s first comprehensive statewide…

  • Dan Buettner’s new book, The Blue Zones Solution:  Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest…