Recently in letters to the editor, there has been a lot of backlash to the concept of a “turn-key” Blue Zones package. Many of the critics focus on the cost or on questionable results. But we should be careful not to kill the message, even if we decide to kill the “for-profit” messenger.
We also should be cautious to not kill our local leaders for drinking the Kool-Aid, thinking it was fine wine. Most of the key local health players have long preached the benefits of a community well-being initiative, designed to enable residents to live longer, happier lives with lower rates of chronic diseases and a higher quality of life.
Dr. Ann Kulze has been a tireless champion of science-based lifestyle improvement. Dr. Susan Johnson has led an MUSC wellness initiative that permeates the entire university system, from students to faculty to employee and, most importantly, to patients.
Roper St. Francis has a long-term commitment to community health, and Dr. Pat Kelly has been a driving force to make that a priority for the Roper St. Francis system.
Local groups, from bikers to runners, have begged for infrastructure improvements to enable more and safer physical activity options. Insurance companies and employers have recognized that, while worksite wellness may fail where there is incomplete buy-in, there are definite advantages to productivity and job satisfaction, as well as lower health care costs when employees are “all in.”
It comes as no surprise that people who eat well, exercise, stay socially engaged, meditate or use spirituality, and have a natural or built environment that is “user friendly,” live 10 to 15 years longer and are more fulfilled. We have to believe Blue Zones research, and we should be appreciative of the efforts of communities that have fully embraced a multifaceted approach.
Unfortunately, what we have been doing is working in silos and not making a complete community commitment to pull all of our resources together. I would like to challenge our city planners, health care experts, businesses, recreation departments, churches and health care payers to come together to do this ourselves.
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenberg has already embraced the concept of creating community quality of life where every citizen knows he has a personal responsibility. What a team.
Rick Reed, M.D.