Prineville makes top three in Blue Zone Project selection

Public is encouraged to participate in a site visit next week to help sell the community

Prineville was recently named a top-three finalist for designation as a Blue Zone community and is inviting the public to help them come out on top.

Blue Zone is the name given to a community or area whose citizens enjoy better health and longevity. The term originated when National Geographic and longevity experts teamed up to traverse the globe and found pockets of people who reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than people in the United States.

This later resulted in the development of the Blue Zones Project, a nationwide initiative to help transform communities across the United States into areas where making healthy choices is easy. Prineville might be next. The city was recently chosen by the Oregon Blue Zones Project as one of three finalists to be Oregon’s next Blue Zone Project city. If selected, the Prineville Blue Zone Project would be awarded a three-year, $200,000 grant to be a statewide demonstration project administered through Oregon Healthiest State and funded through the Cambia Foundation.

“It would be such an honor for Prineville to be a statewide demonstration project,” said Prineville Mayor Betty Roppe. “Being able to make such a substantial investment in the health and well-being of our residents will make our community even more attractive to businesses and people.”

The other two communities selected for a site visit were not disclosed.

"We have committed to keeping the communities that have moved forward confidential to help ensure each community represents itself to the best of its ability, and does not feel the need to compare itself to other communities that have also moved forward in the application process," explained Aaron Patnode, executive director of Oregon Blue Zones Project.

Having applied to become a Blue Zone Project city and making the top-three cut, the next step in the process for Prineville is a site visit. Scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 6, from 2 to 5 p.m. at Meadow Lakes Restaurant, local government and health leaders are encouraging members of the public to show up and demonstrate to Oregon Blue Zone Project personnel why they should choose the local community.

“It will be about a 30-minute presentation selling Prineville,” explained Lisa Dobey, executive director of community and philanthropy at St. Charles Prineville. “We will be talking a little bit about what’s good about Prineville, the different ways that Prineville collaborates to solve problems. We will talk a little bit about the problems we would like to solve should we become one of the Blue Zone projects.”

Following that presentation, members of the public will see a presentation on what Blue Zones are, to help give them a better understanding of what they entail. Community members will then be invited to break into smaller focus groups that will look at local schools, businesses, restaurants and more to help determine how they can improve community health.

“It really is about the community, to make a change in the community itself,” Dobey said of the public involvement, “so it needs to very much be led by the community and supported by the community.”

If Prineville is chosen, local leaders anticipate a variety of benefits for Prineville. Blue Zones Projects across the country have demonstrated success in lowering health care costs, improving productivity, increasing civic engagement, and boosting a community’s recognition as a great place to live, learn, work and play, she noted. In these areas, citizens, schools, employers, restaurants, grocery stores and community leaders work together on policies and programs that move the community toward better health and well-being. The approach implements long-term, evidence-backed policies and interventions that optimize environments and nudge people toward healthier choices throughout their day.

“Recently, substantial infrastructure has been developed in Prineville—the bike park, Apple’s investment in a water treatment center, and the new St. Charles Prineville hospital, to name a few,” said Crook County Public Health Director Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown. “This infrastructure improvement has set the stage for a healthier community. Now, we have the opportunity through the Blue Zones Project to take the next step and engage the community in healthier behaviors.”