Commentary: Blue Zones coming to Petaluma
Our health and resilience have been tried and tested these last several years unlike any other phases of time in recent history. In addition to the once-in-a-century pandemic, we’ve experienced the annual threat of fires and recovery efforts, political unrest, educational disruption, and health disparities across Sonoma County as noted by the most recent Portrait of Sonoma Update, which was released a few months ago.
Unlike most cities, Petaluma is in a unique position with a dedicated health care district whose mission is to improve the health and well-being of this community. And, we are about to embark on a community-wide well-being improvement initiative called Blue Zones Activate Petaluma (https://www.bluezones.com/activate-petaluma) to help us assess our overall health and identify ways in which we can improve things like infrastructure and policy. Blue Zones’ proven model is already making a difference and transforming lives in more than 70 communities across the U.S., moving the needle on everything from promoting more equitable health outcomes to workplace retention. The opportunity to partner with Blue Zones could not come at a better time, and we invite the community to stay informed on this process.
We have already established a 12-member steering committee of enthusiastic community leaders from the healthcare, civic, education, business, and nonprofit sectors, including Mayor Teresa Barrett who has long wanted to bring Blue Zones to Petaluma. She said in our recent news release, “We are very excited that our community will have an opportunity to participate in the Blue Zones Activate assessment as it ties together so many of the values long held and represented by the people of Petaluma. It is a perfect opportunity to actively combine public policy and community health and well-being, and it comes at exactly the right time as we emerge from a prolonged pandemic and look for ways to reengage with our neighbors and friends.”
What is Blue Zones?
Blue Zones’ work is rooted in their identification and research of the world’s blue zones – home to the longest-lived people – and application of that research to modern-day communities. Blue Zones is now the national leader in helping entire cities and counties improve the well-being of populations. Instead of focusing on individual behavior change, the Blue Zones model aims to create a community-wide movement and make healthy choices easier in all the places and spaces people spend the most time.
It does this by helping communities make permanent and semi-permanent changes to city policies, systems, streets, surroundings, and social networks. These changes are aimed at making it easier for residents to eat better, move more, and make meaningful connections with others.
The work begins with a Blue Zones Activate readiness and feasibility assessment to identify local partners and changemakers, the greatest areas of need, local initiatives already underway, and then highlight opportunities for making the biggest impacts with available resources and funds.
We, along with Mayor Barrett and others engaged in the effort, are excited to bring Blue Zones to Petaluma because it focuses on bringing everyone in the community – from neighbors to schools to employers to restaurants – together toward a common goal. Its work aligns closely with our values at the Petaluma Health Care District, your community-owned and operated public agency that’s been dedicated to improving the health and well-being of southern Sonoma County for nearly 75 years.
Ramona Faith, MSN, RN, is the CEO of the Petaluma Health Care District.