The Ottumwa Courier

April 15, 2014

Blue Zones kicks off in Osky

By DUANE NOLLEN The Oskaloosa Herald
The Oskaloosa Herald

---- — OSKALOOSA — Blue Zones Project held its Oskaloosa Kickoff Monday evening at the Oskaloosa High School gym to help improve the community’s health.

Blue Zones originated with Dan Buettner of National Geographic. He was asked to find areas of the world where people live long lives. He found five areas of the world that had many people living healthy, active lives into their 100s. He interviewed those people to learn their secrets to long life. He developed the Power 9 principles.

Buettner and several of his colleagues were in Oskaloosa Monday to help the local Blue Zones staff kick off their campaign to improve the community’s health and well being.

There are 14 Iowa communities that are participating in Blue Zones. Oskaloosa is “one of the bigger 10 to get more attention and focus,” Buettner said in a press conference before the kick off. Ninety cities applied to be part of Blue Zones, he added.

“We are here at the request of local officials,” Buettner said.

Buettner said as a National Geographic fellow he has found parts of the world where people live longer, better lives. Buettner said he and his colleagues want to “reverse engineer” those ideas for longevity and vitality.

“Once we identify them, we can ‘Americanize’ them,” he said.

Buettner said the places around the world with healthy, older people are those areas where “exercise comes naturally,” he said. People walk or bike to work, and eat healthy diets, he added.

Buettner said that his objective Monday night was to help Oskaloosa residents form their own groups to walk.

His focus at the kick-off was to talk about where are the Blue Zones around the world, give people the opportunity to participate in Blue Zones activities and encourage people to form their own “walking moais” (groups) to walk together.

The Oskaloosa walking moais will be the first formed in Iowa, Buettner said.

“Obesity is a big problem in our country,” he said. Buettner said his team will offer evidence-based initiatives that cities can adopt to improve peoples’ lives.

Monday morning, Buettner’s colleague Dan Burden, co-founder of the Walkable and Liveable Communities Institute, took a group of local leaders on a walk around Oskaloosa’s downtown.

Burden said his organization has been around for four years.

“It was created to help bring about cultural change in how we design our communities,” he said. “We get the town engaged to bring about change.”

Burden said he was impressed with the pattern of buildings and streets in Oskaloosa. Burden also said he was impressed with how Oskaloosa has a circle of trails around it that brings people in close proximity to nature.

Burden said that young people tend to pick a community and then pick a company to work for in that community.

Communities need to invest in themselves to beautify themselves and provide activities.

“It takes a town willing to learn,” he said.

If people and businesses thrive in a community, that is the best way for a city to ensure people’s children and grandchildren will stay, Burden said.