Site visit scheduled for Oct. 5 as community seeks Blue Zones Project funding, support.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Regular physical activity is believed to contribute to longevity in so-called Blue Zones. Here, members of the Tualatin community participate in the 5K Regatta Run in 2014.After jointly applying to become the second “demonstration community” in Oregon for a healthy living campaign, Tigard and Tualatin were selected last week for further consideration.

The campaign, called the Blue Zones Project, is a partnership between the Oregon Business Council Charitable Institute, the Oregon Healthiest State Initiative and Healthways. Communities from throughout Oregon are vying to be named as a Blue Zones demonstration community, placing them in line for funding and technical assistance over the next three years.

Tigard and Tualatin submitted a joint community application in August. The application was supported by both cities, and Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden took the lead in putting it together and lining up backing, but it also included endorsements by businesses, nonprofit groups, churches and other local government agencies, including the Tigard-Tualatin School District.

Ogden told The Times last Wednesday that the community was selected for a three-hour site visit, which will take place next month.

In an email to Ogden, which was forwarded to The Times, Oregon Business Council President Duncan Wyse said the site visit “will supplement your application and provide our team with a deeper level of understanding of Tigard/Tualatin’s leadership, community needs, history of collaboration, and commitment to the success of the initiative.”

He added, “This visit will also provide you and your community the opportunity to learn more about the Blue Zones Project including the initiative implementation timeline, funding requirement, and sustainability plan.”

The Blue Zones Project is based on researchers' findings that certain communities around the world tend to have much higher life expectancies than average. In the United States, local branches of the project — housed by the company Healthways — have been started in several states and communities, including in Oregon, seeking to replicate those places' public health accomplishments.

“The Blue Zones Project is a community transformation model,” explained Sarah Foster, program manager with Oregon Healthiest State. “It's comprehensive and community-led.”

Klamath Falls was selected as the first demonstration community in Oregon last year. Together, Tigard and Tualatin are competing against other communities from around the state to be named as the second.

Foster said after site visits are conducted in October, judges will assess the applications and the winner will be announced in late fall.

Tigard and Tualatin's site visit, which Ogden characterized as “a live sales pitch,” will take place from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 5. Additional information is forthcoming.

The total cost of being a Blue Zones demonstration community is about $3.75 million over the three-year implementation period, according to Foster. Most of that money will be provided in the form of leadership funding from the Cambia Health Foundation to the Oregon Business Council Charitable Institute, in support of the Oregon Healthiest State Initiative, but the community will be expected to provide $200,000 to $400,000 of its own per year, Foster said.

In Tigard and Tualatin, Ogden has said, he is hoping that local contribution will be made by Legacy Health and Providence Health & Services, major healthcare providers in the area.

Foster said that as communities were selected for site visits, their applications were judged in criteria like need, readiness, population and ability to provide local funding.

“We were really impressed with Tigard/Tualatin's readiness and community leadership,” she noted.

Ogden said “dozens and dozens of entities” signed on to support the Blue Zones application.

“We have a very strong proposal,” he said. “Our proposal's very strong because it's got so much community support.”

Four or five community members would be hired to direct the Blue Zones process if Tigard and Tualatin are jointly selected as the demonstration community, Foster said. They would receive training and assistance from Healthways in how to help the community move toward healthy practices, she explained, while sampling would be conducted to provide a “baseline” of health indicators on which the community would be expected to improve.

Practices identified by the Blue Zones Project as leading to longer lifespans in places like Okinawa, Japan, and Sardinia, Italy, include everyday physical activity, eating less meat and processed foods, and having healthy relationships with others in the community.

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
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