Leaders at a medical center in Beaver Dam are leading communities in Dodge County in a multi-year effort to be happier and healthier.
"One of the key things we say about the Blue Zones project is that we help make the healthy choice the easy choice, and removing a lot of those barriers that some of the individuals in Dodge County, that they have, is really going to help them be set up for success in their well-being initiative," says Linda Klinger, the Blue Zones project leader in Dodge County.
The project, started by the company Healthways, looked to communities with the world's longest-living residents to see what they were doing right. They found nine commonalities, which have become the basis of their initiative to help people make healthier decisions.
Blue Zones calls them the "Power of 9," or the nine secrets to having a longer life. They include improving community and familial relationships, encouraging healthier eating habits throughout public spaces and improving mental health through mindfulness and purpose workshops.
"We're really looking at changing the environment," says Klinger. "When we look at longevity and we look at well-being, a little bit of is genetics, a little bit of it is access to healthcare, but a lot of it and the majority of it is the environment. So making that healthy choice more achievable for folks."
Dodge County will be the 31st community to implement Blue Zones. The first was Albert Lea, Minnesota, which has already had a lot of success with the program.
"They saw their health insurance claims be reduced and their actual health metrics improve over the seven year period of time that they've been in the project," says Kim Miller, President and CEO at Beaver Dam Community Hospitals.
It's not just counties that have implemented Blue Zones. Iowa has put the program to work in ten communities throughout the state, and has already seen marked improvements in quality of life for their residents. In Beaver Dam, they are implementing - initially - a three year project. "We want to see this continue past that three-year timeframe, so... we'll be looking back at our metrics and looking at those improvements, just like Albert Lea has done," says Miller.