Blue Zones

by Kenneth Rose

Wallowa Memorial Hospital has been focusing on the health and wellness of our community over the past few years in part by providing the Complete Health Improvement Program (CHIP), and now by focusing on helping our community become a “Blue Zone.” Dan Buettner is a world renowned explorer and author who has written several books on the “Blue Zones,” the focus in a National Geographic article that described the five Blue Zones around the world where there are more people who are living active lives well into their 100s.

Buettner subsequently has done a lot of research into what were some commonalities between the lifestyle habits of these five Blue Zones. He found nine common habits or practices called the “Power Nine,” which include moving naturally, having a purpose, eating a plant-slant diet and having strong social ties.

In his most recent book, “Blue Zone Solutions,” he shares how they have incorporated the nine practices into communities across the United States in order to help people live longer and healthier lives.

“It’s not just how long we live, it’s also how well we live,” Buettner writes. “People in the Blue Zones cultures not only live longer lives, they often live better lives, with health, meaning and love — dying young as old as possible.”

Buettner emphasizes that the majority of those living over 100 years in these Blue Zones are not trying to do so, they just do it because their cultures are such that “the healthy choice is the easy choice. … The path to a long, healthy life comes from creating an environment around yourself, your family and your community that nudges you into following the right behaviors subtly and relentlessly …”

If Americans could follow the examples of the people in the Blue Zones they could lose an average of 20 pounds, cut their rates of heart disease in half and suffer about a fifth the rate of diabetes and certain cancers. With those kinds of health benefits, who wouldn’t want to live in that kind of environment?

On Feb. 9 a team from the Oregon Blue Zones Project shared a presentation at Cloverleaf Hall in Enterprise.

To become a Blue Zone, a community must involve individuals, city departments, businesses, grocery stores and restaurants in pledging to make changes to what we eat, how we exercise and relate to one another. A Blue Zone community requires a pledge and action from 20 percent of citizens, 50 percent of top 20 employers, 25 percent of independent restaurants, 25 percent of public schools and 25 percent of grocery stores. The pledge includes a checklist of lifestyle changes, community and business projects, as well as menu and product changes to promote healthier lifestyles.

As health care practitioners, we are excited to take part in continuing to help our community make healthy choices for a longer and healthier life. This is an exciting opportunity for our community and we are hoping that individuals, businesses and schools will join the movement. We encourage you to go to the Blue Zone website ( and learn more about how each of us can get involved.

Kenneth D. Rose, MD, is a general surgeon at Mountain View Medical Group in Enterprise. Dr. Emily Sheahan, MD is Family Medicine/Obstetrics specialist at Mountain View Medical Group.

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