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Baptist Health Jax and Blue Zones assessing community to see how we can live longer, healthier lives

Longer and healthier lives sounds great. Baptist Health Jacksonville is paying for a city-wide assessment underway right now to see what can be done in Jacksonville

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Longer and healthier lives sound great. Baptist Health Jacksonville is paying for a city-wide assessment underway right now to see what can be done in Jacksonville to improve our lives.

The organization that is doing the assessment is called Blue Zones. Founded by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow.

Blue Zones studied the healthiest and longest-living communities around the world. According to their findings, your community and your surroundings have a direct impact on your health. 

Baptist Health Jacksonville wants to make sure that everyone, no matter where you live in the city, has the opportunity to be healthy.

“What do our streets look like?" asked Melanie Patz, Baptist Health Jacksonville’s Vice President of Community Investment and Impact. "What do our parks look like? What is our access for healthy places to be outdoors and get physical activity?”

These are some of the questions Blue Zones experts will be investigating over the next few months in Jacksonville talking to people in the community as well as local leaders. Patz says health is about what happens outside of a doctor’s office.

“If we can craft those environments where we live, where we work, where we play and where we learn, to make healthy choices prominent then we are more likely to be healthy," Patz said. 

Blue Zones prides itself on positive change reporting that communities they’ve worked on have seen double-digit drops in obesity, smoking and BMI. They also report millions of dollars of savings in healthcare costs and measurable drops in employee absenteeism. 

Patz says Blue Zones will complete their assessment by May 11 with recommendations for improvements in Jacksonville. It'll then be up to community leaders and elected officials to take the recommendations and turn them into real changes. 

You may be wondering, what more do we need here in Jacksonville? It’s well known that the city has the largest urban park system in the country with more than 80,000 acres. 

According to Blue Zones and their research, there are actually nine different facets that go into what creates a long and healthy life. 

The 'Power 9' are move naturally, purpose, downshift, 80 percent rule, plant slant, wine at 5, right tribe, loved ones first and belong. Let's break those down. 

  1. Move naturally means: does your environment encourage you to move? Are there areas to walk around and exercise in a natural way?
  2. Purpose means knowing why you do what you do. 
  3. Downshift refers to finding ways to relieve stress.
  4. 80% rule refers to stopping eating when you feel you are 80% full. Blue Zones says the 20% gap between not being hungry and being full could be the difference between losing weight or gaining it. 
  5. Plant slant talks about eating more plant-based protein and cutting back on meat consumption.
  6. 'Wine at 5' encourages people to drink one to two glasses of wine per day.
  7. Right tribe is about having lifelong friendships and a tight-knit social circle.
  8. Loved ones first is simple. People in the healthiest communities put their families first. 
  9. Belong refers to being a part of a faith-based community. Blue Zones says it does not matter which denomination.

Blue Zones has also found that the majority of people live their lives within a 20-mile radius from their home. That is why what surrounds you can impact your health. 

“People rarely stick to diets and exercise routines unless they’re embedded and integrated into their everyday life," Patz said. "The more that we can make healthy choices opportunities for people to do seamlessly and without pain and affordably, then we will all be healthier as a result.”

Learn more about the Jacksonville assessment here.

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