Dan Buettner is an explorer, National Geographic Fellow, award-winning journalist and producer, and a New York Times bestselling author. He discovered the five places in the world—dubbed Blue Zones—where people live the longest, healthiest lives. His articles about these places in The New York Times Magazine and National Geographic are two of the most popular for both publications.
Buettner now works in partnership with municipal governments, large employers,health systems and health insurance companies to implement Blue Zones Projects in communities, workplaces, and universities. Blue Zones Projects are well-being initiatives that apply lessons from the Blue Zones to entire communities by focusing on changes to the local environment, public policy, and social networks. The program has dramatically improved the health of more than 5 million Americans to date. Read our interview with Dan Buettner below:
We’re thrilled that this Saturday, June 29th, we’re going to be celebrating the launch of the Blue Zones Project Monterey County. I’d love to know more about the origins of the Blue Zones Project, particularly how did you come up with the realization of this concept?
After traveling to all of the Blue Zone locations and seeing health and wellness ensuing instead of the residents pursuing health we thought, why can’t we have that here in the US? So in 2009, Blue Zones along with AARP led a pilot in Albert Lea, Minnesota, to determine if the benefits of lifestyles in the world’s Blue Zones could be achieved in communities at home. Measurable success was achieved by integrating healthy environmental interventions in four areas: inner self, habitat, social network, and community. Just one year later, Blue Zones partnered with Healthways® to replicate the Albert Lea experience in three California communities: Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, and Redondo Beach, also known as the Beach Cities. By 2012, these cities saw remarkable reductions in obesity and tobacco usage while also increasing healthy behaviors. The initiative has since expanded through our partnership with Sharecare to include 49 communities, impacting more than 3.4 million Americans.
As we get ready for the launch of our local Blue Zones Project, what are some recommendations you can share with us to prepare for this important community event?
That the key to health is not a silver bullet but instead a silver buckshot. There is no fountain of youth or magic pill that we can take to live long healthy lives. It takes many small changes to create an environment the curates’ healthy living. By embracing the project throughout the entire community, you will be able to see these small changes build into a tidal wave of health and wellness.
By applying the lessons of Blue Zones Project communities, which have made them America’s largest preventive health care project, what are some key elements or actions that we should prevent while we launch our own Blue Zones Project Monterey County to make sure we reach our goals?
I would say the community should have an understanding that this is not a short-term fix over a few months, it will take years.
The Project should not be confused with diets or exercise programs of the past.
Finally, we do not want people to think that we are limiting freedoms. We’re not. We are bringing evidence-based ideas for health and well-being and letting the community choose what works best for them.
Since more than 58% of the population in the Monterey Peninsula is Hispanic or Latino* , how can the universality of the Blue Zones Project be applied to embrace diversity and make this initiative a success?
As you said, Blue Zones is a very universal concept. We found the original blue zones locations in Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy, Ikaria, Greece, Loma Linda, California and Nicoya, Peninsula. Though these are all very culturally different we found that they all embrace the same 9 factors that we believe lead to longevity. (Move Naturally, Purpose, Down Shift, 80% Rule, Plant Slant, Wine @ 5, Right Tribe, Loved Ones First, and Belong). Blue Zones is not about coming in and forcing a community to drop their cultural identity but instead helping to inject these Power 9 principals into the diverse community that already exists.
The Monterey Peninsula can be considered an artist’s paradise due to its vast cultural richness. What role does art play in the Blue Zones Project?
Art can play a big role in the beautification of an environment. We have used it in the past with our built environment experts to brighten up outdoor areas so that they are more appealing and relaxing. Another role art plays is tied to our power 9 principal, “Purpose”. If people find a strong purpose in creating and sharing their art with others it can be worth up to seven years of extra life expectancy.
As the founder of the Blue Zones Project, what are some of your happiest memories of having developed this project that has had such a positive impact in the lives of so many people all over the world?
I love meeting all of the people who have had such life changing success by embracing the project. Lynn Stansberry from Cedar Rapids, Iowa comes to mind. By getting involved in her local project she lost 105 pounds and had a touching story about her grandson being able to get his arms all the way around her for a hug for the first time. Being able to see the outcomes on the personal level brings me the most joy.
I think it’s an amazing feat that you currently hold three Guinness World Records in distance cycling. What are some of the personal lessons you have learned while training to accomplish these extraordinary achievements?
Just like our Blue Zones Projects it is extremely difficult to accomplish such large goals alone. I made it through all of the bike expeditions by working as a team and supporting each other. Taking the responsibility off of one individual and putting it on the group makes a goal much more achievable.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with my audience at Latino Edge?
I’m looking forward to seeing you all this Saturday and being a part of this journey for years to come! Follow along with the progress @bluezones and www.bluezones.com
Dan Buettner will be delivering the Blue Zones Project Presentation this Saturday, June 29th at 1:45pm (English) and Ricky Cotto at 3:00pm (Spanish).
Blue Zones Project Monterey County Kickoff offers an opportunity for attendees to experience how living in a Blue Zones Project community feels and through these activities engage them in being a part of the transformation. Participants will hear from Blue Zones founder Dan Buettner, who will share the Blue Zones story and encourage community members to participate in one or more of the many Blue Zones Project areas: Worksites, Schools, Policy, Moais, Walking School Bus, Purpose Workshop and Volunteering.
Event: Blue Zones Project Monterey County Kickoff
Date: Saturday, June 29, 2019
Time: 1:00pm to 4:30pm
Where: Sherwood Hall
940 North Main Street
Salinas, CA 93901
Speaker: Dan Buettner, New York Times Best-Selling Author of
The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People
For more information and to RSVP for the Kickoff Event: