Fort Worth is Bucking National Health Trends With an Assist From Blue Zones

Launching in 2014, Blue Zones came to Fort Worth hoping to make the city healthier. Since Blue Zone launched, Fort Worth’s emergency room and hospital utilization have been reduced by 2 percent, resulting in tens of millions of healthcare savings. The initiative’s goal is to improve a community’s well being and is based on nine evidence-based formed from some of the world’s healthiest communities in Japan, Greece, and Costa Rica.

In 2014, Gallup’s Healthways survey put Fort Worth at 185th out of 190 cities in the poll. Now the city ranks 58th, and its score is above the national average. The nation’s overall health went down during this time as Fort Worth’s improved. Since the implementation of Blue Zones, Fort Worth has seen a 31 percent decrease in smoking and 62 percent of residents exercise at least 30 minutes three or more days of the week, a nine percent increase since 2014.

“We are working across whole community and taking innovative approach to community health,” Dufrene said. “The program needs to be where we spend our time: work, school, and places where we eat.”

This month, Blue Zones Vice President Matt Dufrene spoke at TCU’s annual healthcare panel about the goals and impact of Blue Zones over the last four years. Dufrene said that 75 percent of a person’s health is based on their environment and behaviors, which is why Blue Zones uses connections with employers, schools, restaurants, grocery stores, civic policies, and individuals to educate and change decision-making. The program, which is sponsored by Texas Health Resources, encourages people to “move naturally, eat better, develop healthy social circles, and live with purpose,” according to their website.

Fort Worth was Blue Zones’ largest city when it was implemented, and it encourages environmental, social and policy changes that lead to healthy behavior. Restaurants are guided to offer healthier choices and the city has invested in walking and cycling paths to become more attractive.

“Good health is good for business, good for the community, and impacts the bottom line,” Dufrene said.

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