(BIVN) – The Waimea community gathered on Saturday to celebrate the certification of North and East Hawaiʻi’s Blue Zones Communities.
From the Blue Zones Project:
East Hawai‘i and North Hawai‘i have been named Certified Blue Zones Communities®, joining only 13 other communities with this well-deserved designation across the country. The community celebration in Waimea today drew a crowd with live music, free healthy food samples and a congratulatory program acknowledging community members dedicated to well-being.
Brought to Hawai‘i by HMSA, Blue Zones Project® is a community-led initiative with a mission to enhance the well-being of Hawai‘i’s people by continually improving the environments where we live, work and play. Through dedication of community leaders and support of the Blue Zones Project – Hawai‘i Island team, the efforts to make healthy choices easily available have proven successful and have resulted in this milestone.
Senior Vice President and Chief Community Engagement Officer, Kathryn Matayoshi of HMSA commends the communities for reaching this goal, “We’re so proud of our Hawai‘i Island community members. Over the past five years, North and East Hawai‘i have had nearly 35,000 residents engaged with Blue Zones Project, to better their own health and the health of their family, friends, neighbors, and community. With that kind of passion it’s no wonder Hawai‘i is one of the healthiest states in the nation.”
Mayor Harry Kim also congratulates the communities on their dedication, “Our goal has always been to make Hawai‘i a nice place to live. Not just the sense of place, but for us as people and families, for a healthy lifestyle. I consider this community certification to be a really great thing for all of us. Blue Zones Project represents the lifestyle we strive for on Hawai‘i Island. I congratulate the Blue Zones Project team and the residents of Hawai‘i Island for working toward this and participating in improving wellness in the community.”
The initiative is modeled after the best practices in the Blue Zones® – regions in the world with the highest concentration of centenarians, or people who live to be 100 years or older. Blue Zones Project implements these best practices within communities and partners with worksites, schools, grocery stores, restaurants, civic organizations and policymakers to improve access to healthy resources.
According to the project, health and well-being highlights of the work performed over the five year period include:
- North Hawai‘i has outperformed the state well-being trends, seeing 18.2% fewer health risks than expected. East Hawai‘i has seen 5.7% fewer health risks than expected. (source: Community Well-Being Index)
- Adult smoking rate has declined in North Hawai‘i and in Hilo. (source: Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance Survey or BRFSS)
- Blue Zones Project has partnered with community organizations and the County of Hawai‘i to help bring over $104 million in grants to Hawai‘i Island since the project’s launch in 2015
Improving wellness for children in public schools:
- Blue Zones Project Approved™ Schools saw improved compliance with state wellness guidelines and scored better than state averages. Seventy-five percent of Hilo-Waiakea schools exceeded state wellness guideline average scores, and 88% of Ka‘u-Kea‘au-Pahoa schools did the same in 2018. (source: Hawai‘i State Department of Education – Wellness Guidelines)
- Available data shows that Blue Zones Project Approved schools saw an average 16% decrease in disciplinary incidents, and 21% reduction in chronic absenteeism since engaging with Blue Zones Project. (source: School Quality Survey)
Healthy options increase bottom line at grocery stores:
- Grocery stores saw a 16% increase in produce sales and a 32% increase in water sales since becoming engaged with Blue Zones Project.
- Sixty-one percent of East Hawai‘i residents and 72% of North Hawai‘i residents indicated that there are always healthy options at their grocery stores
Overall health and well-being improvement on the job:
- Twenty-nine worksites in East Hawai‘i and 14 worksites in North Hawai‘i have worked to make healthy options more readily available for their employees by becoming Blue Zones Project Approved. Employers set aside time for walking breaks and volunteer opportunities, encouraged standing meetings, developed policies to promote healthy snacking and offered workshops for employees to find their purpose. These practices resulted in reduced absenteeism, increased engagement and improved job satisfaction.
Healthier choices at popular, local restaurants:
- Thirteen restaurants in East Hawai‘i and 10 restaurants in North Hawai‘i became Blue Zones Project Approved. These restaurants offered healthier menu options to meet customer demand. Many restaurants also saw a sales increase of vegetarian and vegan options and improved reviews on platforms such as Yelp.
Dan Buettner, Blue Zones founder and National Geographic explorer, commends North and East Hawai‘i on their leadership in well-being on a national basis, “When HMSA launched Blue Zones Project in Hawai‘i with two communities on Hawai‘i Island, they were pioneers in community wellness. I applaud the North Hawai‘i and East Hawai‘i communities for stepping up to the challenge and serving as spectacular examples of community-led change. From the parternships developed to government support, the community has really illustrated the impact that working together for well-being can have at a grassroots level.”
For more on Blue Zones Project, contact the Blue Zones Project – Hawai‘i team at BlueZonesProjectHawaii@sharecare.com, visit bzphawaii.com or follow us for well-being tips and tricks on Instagram and Facebook, @bzphawaii