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Blue Zones initiative aims to make Bucks County happier, healthier

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Friday afternoon, State Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-10, and the Bucks County Health Improvement Partnership (BCHIP) launched an affiliation with Blue Zones to bring 20 years of research-based lessons about health, longevity and happiness to Bucks County.

According to the Blue Zones website, its work “has been rooted in the research and identification of the world’s longest-lived and happiest populations.” It defines physical blue zones as “rare longevity hotspots around the world where people are thriving into their 100s.”

The partnership starts with the “Ignite Phase,” to assess the community’s well-being through engagement and education with leaders and community members. The goal is to help the community to “Live better, longer.”

The Ignite Phase is expected to last six to seven months and wrap up this winter. The project has already seen support from many districts and municipalities in the area, and schools have also started to come on board with the possibilities the Blue Zones organization has promised.

The Blue Zones organization has reported great improvement in other cities that have implemented the programs. In Fort Worth, Tex., Blue Zones is credited with lowering the smoking rate by 31% since 2014 (via Founder Dan Buettner for AARP).

Santarsiero said, “I think there’s really great potential.” He hopes to ensure that our community will start to embrace a more balanced lifestyle.

The state senator presented BCHIP with a $500,000 grant to support the initiative.

Margaret Brown, Vice President of Business Development at Blue Zones, called the senator’s commitment to the project “admirable.”

Brown stated that the “number one way to impact community is through policy change.” She hopes that the leaders in the community can come together to make this happen.

Brown emphasized that diet, community and exercise were all integral parts of the plan to make Bucks County a blue zone. She also said that infrastructure was a major part of what makes communities effective.

She mentioned that pedestrian-safe environments with many trails have proven to be the most successful blue zones. These environments are a breeding ground for community growth and continued strength.

Kimberly Everett, executive director of BCHIP, said that they are “very fortunate to be a part of this, and are looking forward to the impact we are going to have.”

Community discussions about the future of Blue Zones involvement in Bucks County are expected to begin in July.

Blue Zones Ignite Bucks Area includes Bristol Township, Bristol Borough, Falls, Tullytown, Morrisville, Lower Makefield, Yardley, Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, Upper Makefield, Solebury, New Hope, Buckingham, Doylestown Township, Doylestown Borough, Plumstead, New Britain Township, New Britain Borough, and Chalfont.


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