Fayette Living Well Coalition working with Blue Zones Project to make area healthier – Uniontown Herald Standard

Sharing secrets of living longer that researchers found in places around the globe, the Blue Zones Project works with communities to make changes that help their residents live healthier lives.

Now Fayette Living Well Coalition is bringing the Blue Zones Project here.

The important thing about Blue Zones is its not just about physical health. Its much bigger than that, said Muriel Nuttall, Fayette Chamber of Commerce executive director and a coalition member. You have to have a healthy community.

The coalition started as a group within the Community Health Improvement Project, a local organization that has worked many years in cooperation with the state Dept. of Health.

Today, the Community Health Improvement Project remains the legal name for the organization but it is known as the Fayette Living Well Coalition. The new name came as members were looking to re-energize the organization and a smaller group formed within to look at statistics.

They were driven by the annual Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Grades for counties throughout the nation. It looks at such things as obesity, tobacco use, infant deaths and access to doctors and dentists.

In Pennsylvania, there are 67 counties and we have consistently been 66, said Nuttall. In some categories, we are the lowest.

The group contacted the Blair County Coalition, which had been 65th and rose to a place in the 40s. From conversations, the Fayette group knew they needed more local information.

They pulled together about 100 community leaders for an information-gathering seminar that provided a massive amount of data.

While studying the data, the group became aware of the Blue Zones Project where researchers went out across the world to find places where people lived to be over 100 - one in Loma Linda, California.

Once they were identified and circled the places on a map with a blue pen, teams of researchers went back to find out why. The Blue Zones Project was created.

Kristi Kassimer, of the Fayette County PR Initiative and coalition coordinator, explained Blue Zones is concerned with all aspects of healthy living from physical movement and diet to the importance of family and belonging to a faith-based community.

But Kassimer noted, Theyre specific about not trying to do it all at once. Its a lifestyle change. Its about contributing to your overall wellness.

The Fayette group was intrigued.

We reached out to the Blue Zones Project, remarked Nuttall. We said, Are you interested in coming into Fayette County? Heres where we are. This is what were up against. This is our data. And they said yes.

Nuttall continued, It came with a price tag - $50,000. Many members of the business community - almost without being asked - stepped up and said we want to be a part of it. We were able to complete that final step of funding with a gift from Chevron.

The Fayette group made plans to bring the Blue Zones Project here at the end of March but the coronavirus means the meeting will be rescheduled.

They want to talk to the community. They want to tell the community what Blue Zones is about, said Nuttall. But were put on the spot, too. We have to do a community presentation and tell them who we are and where we see our greatest needs and challenges. We also talk to them about our benefits and the things that are great about Fayette County.

Nuttall and Kassimer explained Blue Zones will also do research and meet with smaller groups to form an assessment. About two weeks later, they will come back with recommendations.

In addition, weve been offered an expert in a field related to our assessment, said Nuttall. This person will come out and really dive into the subject matter.

Nuttall explained all levels of area leadership are focused on moving Fayette County forward in a different, faster way than weve ever been focused before. The leadership across the board is working together like Ive never seen it.

The assessment, Nuttall said, is only the beginning.

Theres some big steps after that but we have been greeted with such positive reception from our businesses to our faith-based community to the medical industry. Its all been positive, said Nuttall. Everybody acknowledges these are changes we need to make. How do we do that in the best way possible?

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Fayette Living Well Coalition working with Blue Zones Project to make area healthier - Uniontown Herald Standard

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