I Heart Yakima

Small Changes, Big Impact: Yakima as a Blue Zone

Small Changes, Big Impact: Yakima as a Blue Zone

April 12, 2017

Skipping the gym. Relaxing with friends and family. Sipping a glass of wine. Sound like a vacation? Not only could it be a healthier way to spend our days in Yakima, it could even extend our lifespan.

Walking, spending time with loved ones and even drinking wine in moderation are all proven Blue Zone healthy habits. And if a team of committed doctors and advocates have anything to do with it, Yakima could become the first Blue Zone in Washington State, improving community pride and reducing health care costs in the process.

A “blue zone” is a geographic area where a large percentage of the population lives healthy and joyful lives, often past 100 years. A team of scientists studied what made these places different. The result is the “Power 9” a short list pinpointing activities that extend the average person’s life expectancy by 10-12 years. These nine environmental changes could massively improve health in Yakima’s residents. To date, The Blue Zones Project has positively impacted 1.7 million lives across 26 communities in seven states.

Kate Gottlieb and Dr. Yami Cazorla-Lancaster have been hard at work making that change a reality. Over the last year, Gottlieb, the sustainability and wellbeing coordinator at Virginia Mason Memorial, and Cazorla-Lancaster, a pediatrician at Nourish Wellness, have been building a group of 100+ Yakima residents who are campaigning to make Yakima a Blue Zone Community. They meet monthly as the Yakima Health and Wellbeing Coalition.

To set the stage, they are hosting Tony Buettner, VP of business and product development at Blue Zones, LLC. Buettner will be in Yakima for two events on Tuesday May 8, sharing results from communities just like ours who have been transformed by the Blue Zones Project.

Take Albert Lea, Minnesota, for example. After becoming a Blue Zones Community, they saw a:
• 90 percent increase in community satisfaction
• 40 percent drop in city worker healthcare costs
• 25 percent increase in property values
• 26 percent increase in its county health ranking

How did Albert Lea do it? By making hundreds of small changes to their surroundings. We spend 90 percent of our time in the same places, and that environment dictates how easy it is to make healthy choices, or on the flip side, how difficult it can be.

For example, to make your home a Blue Zone, you might set up your kitchen so you’re not overeating. How? Use 10-inch dinner plates instead of 14-inch plates. Or store junk food out of sight. The Blue Zones Project team has more than 150 proven tools they use to customize solutions in each community, ranging from the small changes individuals make, all the way to county-wide investments in new walking and biking trails.

Even better? The Blue Zones Project hires and trains local people to implement the changes. Their methods are proven to work, but only in communities that are ready.

Are you ready to help transform the health and happiness of Yakima? Here’s how you can help:
Attend the Blue Zones Community Luncheon, May 8, 11am-1pm, $22 Chamber Members/$32 Non-Members
Attend the FREE Blue Zones Community Event "Wine @ 5," May 8 5:30-7:30pm
Follow the Yakima Health & Wellbeing Coalition on Facebook
Attend a Yakima Health & Wellbeing Coalition meeting at the Yakima Chamber of Commerce (Meets Monthly on the Third Wednesday)

Interested in making your home or workplace a "Blue Zone?"
Watch TED Talk “How to Live to be 100+,” watched by over 3 million people (19 mins)
Discover the Blue Zones Project Approach (3 mins)
Take the Blue Zones True Vitality Test (3 mins)

Text: Jessica Moskwa Hawkins
Photo: Courtesy of Cowiche Canyon Conservancy

Share this article