Summit hopes Blue Zones can help heal community

  • Thu Jul 11th, 2019 1:30am
  • News

In its quest to make Grays Harbor County one of the healthiest communities in the nation, Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma is bringing in Blue Zone LLC to see if residents are open to making better lifestyle choices.

“Blue Zones Project is an initiative that helps communities make healthy choices that improve the lives of participants and the overall quality of life within a community,” said John Elsner, Summit’s director of development and community relations.

The term “blue zones” refers to five regions that have a high incidence of people living into their 100s: Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California.

The idea began with “demographic work done by Gianni Pes and Michel Poulain outlined in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology,” according the the Blue Zones website. The journal article examined the high concentration of male centenarians in Sardinia, circled in blue on a map at the time, hence the term “blue zones.”

Blue Zone LLC founder Dan Buettner and his team of scientists expanded on that work and found nine lifestyle habits shared by the blue zone residents. He has since written several books on the topic.

“The philosophy is that strategic small changes can have a big impact,” Elsner said. “The Blue Zones team is currently working with 49 communities around the United States and has extensive experience working with local communities to better understand what initiatives will have the greatest impact in their community.”

Elsner calls it a grassroots initiative that requires community support to be successful. Summit is partnering with the Grays Harbor County Commission, Greater Grays Harbor Inc. and UnitedHealthcare to bring a presentation by Blue Zones LLC to Elma.

“It is essential that the community in general (and its strategic stakeholders in particular) be committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the community for Blue Zones to take on the project,” Elsner wrote. “This would include working in partnership to address issues in education, healthcare, infrastructure, transportation, food distribution, etc.”

The first phase of the Blue Zones Project is a presentation by the company to the community at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at Summit Pacific Wellness Center. Grays Harbor Community Hospital District No. 1 is paying for this visit. Requests for the amount were not answered before this edition of the paper went to press.

“This is an opportunity for the community to hear firsthand from Blue Zones and for the Blue Zones team to see the interest of the community,” Elsner wrote. “It will entail a presentation by Nick Buettner from Blue Zones and provide an opportunity for the community to ask questions related to the program. Everyone is invited to an informal reception at the Wellness Center following the presentation.”

“UnitedHealthcare has committed to paying for half of the second phase community assessment,” Elsner wrote.

But the community must show interest in making this happen if it is to continue, Elsner said.

“If it is clear that the community is committed to this program and it has the support of key stakeholders in government, the business community, non-profits, etc., we (our community) would seek funding to pay for a three-year Blue Zones Project to make a meaningful impact on the health and quality of life of our communities members,” Elsner wrote. “The cost of the three-year program is determined by several factors, such as population, geography and current programs in place.”

Elsner would like members of the community to come out to the meeting Tuesday to hear directly from Blue Zones LLC about the program. More information on Blue Zones can be found at