Public invited to Blue Zones meetings this week
The effort to make Fairfield a Blue Zones-certified city will take flight this week.
Residents are invited to a focus group meeting from 6:30-8 p.m. Tuesday at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center.
Another meeting just like it will be held 9:30-11 a.m. Saturday at the same location for those who cannot attend Tuesday’s meeting.
The meetings will be a chance for local residents to share their ideas about how to improve the community’s health. A group of nine leaders in Fairfield’s Blue Zones Project, collectively known as the “Power Nine,” will use the input from these meetings to create a blueprint for how to make Fairfield a Blue Zones Community.
Ed Malloy, a member of the “Power Nine,” said the meetings this week will instruct people in how to register with Blue Zones online. Participants will take a personal pledge to achieve a few different health and well-being goals in their own personal lives.
The Blue Zones website, www.bluezonesproject.com, includes suggestions for enhancing life such as better exercise, diet, environment and community involvement. For instance, one of the pledges a person can make is to get a bicycle and bike helmet.
The website says riding a bicycle burns 235 calories every 30 minutes, and wearing a helmet reduces the risk of serious head injury in crashes by as much as 85 percent. The bicycle pledge is one of the most popular on the site with more than 7,200 people agreeing to do it.
Malloy said the goals on the website are not especially demanding. They mostly require the person to make small tweaks in his or her exercise and diet.
“They’re things that get you focused on your routine, and they turn out to be fairly simple,” he said. “They are things like going behind your chair at work and doing some squats.”
The Blue Zones Project is based on a 2008 book by cyclist and documentarian Dan Buettner, who investigated areas of the globe where people live healthy lives to 100 years of age and beyond. Buettner dubbed those locales “blue zones.”
“Buettner found a lot of things those people did were quite simple such as walking instead of using a car,” Malloy said. “People who live over 100 walk everywhere.”
Ken Daley, leader of the Power Nine, said the public meetings this week will feature a two-step process. The first step is to educate the public about what Blue Zones are. The second is to start a structured dialogue with the public to find out its health and wellness priorities.
Daley said it’s important for residents to remember to register online, even if they already registered a few years ago. Once the person has registered, he must commit to fulfill one of the “change behaviors.” Fairfield needs to get 20 percent of its population to register in order to meet the certification requirements.
“Sometimes the changes are as simple as standing up from your desk and having a good stretch,” Daley said. “They’re not time intensive.”
Mark Cohen, another member of the Power Nine, is in charge of the effort to get Fairfield’s residents to sign up for the wellness pledges. He said more than 2,000 people in town have already signed up to improve their health.
The Power Nine will submit its blueprint for certification by April 1. The committee will know by May if its blueprint is adequate, at which time it will begin to implement the blueprint.
Daley said the city should know within a year if it has achieved certification.
Daley said the Blue Zones Project is in many ways a continuation of another wellness project, “Let’sGoJeffCo.”
Daley said the work begun under Let’sGoJeffCo was not lost, but is being incorporated into the blueprint for the Blue Zones Project.
“We’ll just keep working to making this community not just a demonstration site but a very well community, which is our true desire,” Daley said. “It’s just a step toward our ultimate objective to make this the most well rural county in Iowa.”
Daley said Fairfield’s and Jefferson County’s wellness goals extend beyond what is included in the Blue Zones Project.
He said wellness includes things like reducing tobacco use and reducing teenage pregnancy.
“It’s a very complex set of interactions that have to take place for us to live healthy and productive lives into old age,” he said.