Blue Zones and American College of Lifestyle Medicine Create Partnership to Accelerate a Lifestyle-First Approach to all Healthcare

Alliance will combine proven, powerful efforts inside and outside hospital and clinic walls to ignite health transformation and reduce the epidemic of chronic disease.

 

Blue Zones and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) have announced a global impact partnership to address the health crisis of rising chronic disease rates and rising healthcare-related costs. Blue Zones, the global leader in longevity research and well-being solutions, and ACLM, the leading organization for promoting lifestyle medicine as a first-line treatment for chronic disease, will combine their strengths to disrupt the healthcare status quo and shift the focus from disease treatment to disease prevention and reversal through evidence-based lifestyle interventions.

The partnership brings together Blue Zones’ evidence-based roadmap to living a better, longer life through their identification and research of the world’s longest-lived, healthiest and happiest cultures in the blue zones regions with ACLM’s expertise in lifestyle medicine, a proven treatment approach that utilizes therapeutic lifestyle changes such as whole-food, plant-predominant eating pattern, regular physical activity, restorative sleep, stress management, positive social connection, and the avoidance of risky substances to treat, prevent, and even reverse chronic diseases.

“We are thrilled to partner with the American College of Lifestyle Medicine through a shared vision of creating healthier and stronger communities nationwide,” said Ben Leedle, CEO of Blue Zones and Co-founder of Blue Zones Project. “At Blue Zones, we have been at the forefront of creating meaningful population-level well-being improvement outside hospital and clinic walls, resulting in healthier, happier communities and sustainable gains in per capita overall well-being, which has driven millions in healthcare savings, improved productivity, and regional economic impact. Meanwhile, ACLM has been driving the field of lifestyle medicine forward for the past two decades, working to transform healthcare from within hospital and clinic walls. This partnership represents a paradigm shift by combining the power of lifestyle medicine with community driven well-being improvement.”

Blue Zones and ACLM share a commitment to address the unsustainable trajectory of chronic disease and its associated costs, both domestically and internationally. More than 60% of American adults—and a growing number of children—have already been diagnosed with at least one chronic disease, and 90% of the nation’s staggering $4.7 trillion in annual healthcare spending can be attributed to costs related to chronic diseases and mental health conditions. Globally, cardiovascular disease, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes account for over 80% of premature deaths. 

Together, ACLM and Blue Zones will establish a new clinician certification status of “Blue Zones-Certified Physician” or “Blue Zones-Certified Healthcare Professional.” Earning the new designation will be available exclusively to clinicians who are already trained in the growing field of lifestyle medicine and certified to practice in the U.S. by either the American Board of Lifestyle Medicine (ABLM), the certification body for physicians, or ACLM, the certification body for eligible non-physicians. Outside the U.S., the International Board of Lifestyle Medicine (IBLM) is the certification body. Since the inaugural certification exam in 2017, nearly 6,700 clinicians—more than 5,000 physicians and 1,700 health professionals—have become certified in lifestyle medicine. These clinicians will become eligible to vie for the additional Blue Zones designations starting in early 2025.

Physicians and other health professionals interested in learning more about earning certification to practice lifestyle medicine, the prerequisite to the upcoming Blue Zones-certified physician and healthcare professional recognition, may register their interest here and begin meeting their prerequisites

“It is clear that the traditional healthcare model of simply prescribing costly, ever-increasing quantities of pharmaceuticals and procedures with risky side effects is broken, and we need new innovative approaches,” said ACLM President Beth Frates, MD, FACLM, DipABLM, who also serves as a clinical associate professor at Harvard Medical School. “Lifestyle medicine-certified clinicians are educated and trained to treat the root causes of common chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity, with intensive lifestyle interventions when appropriate, for a clinical outcome goal of health restoration as opposed to disease management. With Blue Zones’ global reach and brand recognition, those who earn Blue Zones certification will stand out as clinicians with the education and training to provide patients with the whole-person, evidence-based care they want and deserve.”

In addition to creating the new certification opportunity, Blue Zones will be recognized as the exclusive founding partner of ACLM’s Center for Lifestyle Medicine Innovation (CLMI), a hub for research, innovation, thought leadership and knowledge sharing. Individuals and organizations interested in joining ACLM and Blue Zones in advancing research that is focused on identifying and eradicating the root causes of disease are invited to register their interest here.

“Lifestyle medicine is the prescription with only positive side effects,” said Blue Zones Chief Medical Officer, CLMI President, and ACLM Past President Dexter Shurney, MD, MBA, MPH, FACLM, DipABLM. “It’s the medicine that we must make available to one and all in order to create sustainable health and healthcare, as well as a sustainable world. The new Center—emerging from ACLM’s research, innovation and practice advancement efforts and building on the work of the Blue Zones Institute—will be keenly focused on innovative research and demonstration projects, the outcomes of which will serve to further solidify the urgency of a lifestyle medicine-first approach to all healthcare.” 

As part of the partnership, ACLM is offering practice advancement consultative support to health systems integrating lifestyle medicine in Blue Zones communities, leveraging ACLM’s extensive patient-facing and clinical practice tools and health systems resources. Since its 2021 inception, 108 health systems have joined ACLM’s Health System Council (HSC), comprised of innovative health organizations from nearly 40 states dedicated to providing high-value care through lifestyle medicine. 

“ACLM Past President Dr. David Katz often says, ‘Lifestyle is by far the best medicine, and culture is the spoon,’ casting a vision of a nation and world wherein all clinicians are lifestyle medicine-trained, delivering care in communities in which the healthy choice is the easy choice,” said ACLM Executive Director Susan Benigas. “ACLM and Blue Zones share this vision and are at the forefront of championing it. We’re dedicated to equipping and empowering clinicians to play an integral role in transforming the health of their respective communities. Each physician and primary care provider who becomes trained in lifestyle medicine and Blue Zones principles has exponential impact, as each touches hundreds, if not thousands, of lives. The ripple effect is already igniting the disruptive transformation our healthcare system so desperately needs.” 

Wayne S. Dysinger, MD, MPH, ACLM Founder and Chair, said: “This new partnership between Blue Zones and the American College of Lifestyle Medicine (ACLM) is a monumental leap forward in preventive health. Imagine – years of groundbreaking research and practice by Blue Zones, unlocking the secrets to long life and applying them to communities – meets the clinical approach of ACLM, empowering lifestyle medicine at the hospital, clinic, and individual levels. For those of us that have been promoting and practicing preventive health and lifestyle medicine, this isn’t just about individual lives – it’s about a healthier society, a lighter burden on healthcare systems, and a world where improved well-being is the norm. We’re on the verge of a revolution – a shift from simply patching up illness to actively building a future brimming with vibrant health. That’s the exciting reality this partnership promises.”