Today, Healthways, Inc. (NASDAQ: HWAY) and Blue Zones, LLC, announced the establishment of Healthways-Blue Zones Vitality QuestSM, an exclusive, strategic relationship to create, support and sustain a national movement to improve community health and well-being, initially for cities in the U.S.
“Healthways has already achieved a tremendous amount of success bringing behavioral economic and clinical science to real world application, helping individuals better manage their health and well-being”
Vitality Quest will be working with select communities across the nation to help them earn designation as a Healthways-Blue Zones Vitality CitySM, a community in which people are healthier, happier, live longer, are more vital and more productive, and who enjoy an improved standard of living — in other words, a city whose citizens enjoy a measurably higher level of well-being and lower healthcare costs.
Vitality Quest is launching a national search for a highly motivated community wanting to take advantage of the best expertise available to become the inaugural Vitality City. Civic or municipal leaders and organizations wanting to learn more or submit a Statement of Interest may do so by visiting www.vitality-city.com. The deadline for statement submission is May 14, 2010.
“Through this partnership, we will be helping communities improve their health and well-being by putting the neighborhood concept back into health,” said Blue Zones founder and world-renowned explorer Dan Buettner. “We know from deep science that when communities embrace certain principles and implement sustainable policy and environmental changes, it makes it easier for individuals, businesses and government entities within those communities to support one another, driving real, long-term, meaningful improvement. Healthways has the tools, capabilities, mission and experience to scale Vitality Quest to more and larger communities than Blue Zones has yet engaged.”
Numerous U.S. cities, both large and small, have inquired about the Blue Zones framework and the possibility of earning a Vitality City designation as the result of the successful 2009 pilot of an AARP-Blue Zones project in Albert Lea, Minn., as reported by USA Today, ABC News, NBC’s Today Show and others.
In Albert Lea, Blue Zones worked with local government and community leaders for more than a year to design and implement large- and small-scale environmental and policy changes to encourage residents to adopt and maintain healthier lifestyles, while developing the social, commercial, communal and professional networks needed to support them, resulting in:
- An average weight loss of two pounds for every Albert Lea resident
- An increase in average life expectancy of 3.1 years
- A 20 percent reduction in absenteeism for key employers
- A community-wide effort that actively engaged 60 percent of the city’s restaurants, 51 percent of its employers, 100 percent of its schools and 27 percent of its citizens
“Other Vitality Cities will exist where the environment and the individual intersect to create healthier, happier, longer-lived people,” said Ben R. Leedle, Jr., Healthways’ chief executive officer. “People spend, on average, the majority of their lives within a 30-mile radius of their home. Support for individual well-being improvement can’t be effective with a national PR campaign; it requires all facets of the community working together within that home radius – the places where people really live, work, eat, shop and socialize – to sustain real and meaningful change. That’s what this partnership is focused on achieving: the mobilization and convergence of individuals and communities to improve their, and ultimately America’s, health and well-being.”
Under the guidance of Vitality Quest, selected Vitality City communities will benefit from the combined capabilities and expertise of Blue Zones and Healthways. Blue Zones brings an unparalleled expertise in the understanding and promotion of human longevity and its successful translation into practice. Healthways' proven solutions for improving well-being for both individuals and entire populations will be supplemented with the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being IndexTM – the official statistic of health and well-being for communities, employers and individuals – to set a baseline in chosen cities and measure progress along the way.
“Healthways has already achieved a tremendous amount of success bringing behavioral economic and clinical science to real world application, helping individuals better manage their health and well-being,” said Leedle. “We know that well-being is comprised of social, emotional and physical health, and this partnership affords us an opportunity to develop a wider set of community interventions and access to an impressive range of experts and proven techniques. The combination of our collective abilities as companies to engage whole environments will accelerate the achievement of improved well-being for entire communities.”
“The Healthways-Blues Zones Vitality Quest framework works because it is based on real practices of the world’s longest-lived communities, and it doesn’t involve the latest fad diet or exercise machine,” Buettner added. “We’re encouraging people to make small changes in their lifestyles and behaviors that accumulate to have a big impact both on the length of time they can expect to live and the quality of life they can expect to enjoy in their present and later years. We’re also changing communities, because it takes a community-wide effort on the part of government, employers, retailers, restaurants, schools, churches – everyone – to sustain and support individuals in their environments. It’s a model that should be replicable in any city anywhere in the world.”
Research is clearly showing a strong link between well-being, healthcare costs and engagement in the work environment. For a city, the achievement of higher well-being for its citizens yields competitive advantage for economic development and job creation. For employers, it means greater productivity and better health in the workforce and dependent families, resulting in better business performance. For individuals, it simply means living well, longer.