The final speaker at New Partners for Smart Growth in Portland was Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and multiple New York Times bestselling author. He has discovered, through multiple expeditions with teams of research scientists specializing in population studies, the five places in the world – dubbed Blue Zones – where people live the longest, and are healthiest and happiest. His New York Times Sunday Magazine article about these places, “The Island Where People Forget to Die,” was one of the Times’ most popular, as was his National Geographic cover story on longevity, “The Secrets of Living Longer.
I told Dan about Richmond’s Health in All Policies and provided him with a hyperlink to the recent Health in All Policies Report, and he emailed me back:
Dear Tom, it was a real delight to meet you. You are a visionary with this policy. I’m cc-ing my colleague Jennifer Furler. Would you mind talking with us about how you implemented this strategy and how we might activate it in other cites? Carpe Diem (and Tomorrowiem too). Dan
Buettner’s organization, Blue Zones, LLC, puts the world’s best practices of longevity and wellbeing to work in people’s lives at the community level. Buettner works in partnership with Healthways, municipal governments, and various insurance companies to implement the program in more than 20 cities so far, and has dramatically improved the health of more than 5 million Americans to date. Their strategy focuses on optimizing the local environment – walkability for citizens and kids, availability of healthy food options, social connectivity, pursuit of life purpose, and ongoing coaching and support for creating homes which effortlessly bring forth wellness and happiness.
Writing in Newsweek, Harvard University’s Walter Willet called the results “stunning.” In one project alone, Buettner and his then partner, AARP, applied principles of Blue Zones to Albert Lea, Minnesota, and lowered health care costs by 40%.
Much of what Buettner found contributing to longevity is also found in Richmond’s Health in All Policies, and all of it is rooted in community and lifestyle rather than traditional medicine. For example, he recommends the following:
- Down shift. Reverse disease by finding a stress relieving strategy that works for you.
- Purpose. Wake up with a purpose each day to add up to 7 years to your life.
- Plant slant. Put less meat and more plants on your plate.
- Wine at 5:00. Enjoy a glass of wine with good friends each day.
- Family first. Invest time with family and add up to 6 years to your life.
- 80% rule. Eat mindfully and stop when 80% full.
- Move naturally. Find ways to move more! You’ll burn calories without thinking about it.
- Right tribe. Surround yourself with people who support positive behavior.
- Belong. Belong to a faith-based community and attend services 4 times a month to add 4-14 years to your lifespan.
A city can be a critical contributor to an environment that encourages healthy behavior. See Health in All Policies Report to find out how Richmond is doing this.