A health and wellbeing initiative by the Southwest Washington-based CHOICE Regional Health Network was recently launched in Lewis County, according to a news release.
Known as “Blue Zones Activate,” the initiative is, according to the release, based on “evidence-based strategies to make it easier for people to make healthy choices in the communities in which they live.”
Blue Zones works with cities and counties to make “healthy choices easier” through permanent and semi-permanent changes to human-made surroundings and systems, the news release stated. Through a three-tiered approach, participating communities have experienced double-digit drops in obesity and tobacco use and have saved millions of dollars in health care costs, according to the release.
The initiative has worked in 70 communities around the country, and aims to “spark transformations that enhance the wellbeing of all residents, improve employee and student productivity, and boost economic vitality and development.”
Edna Fund, former two-term Lewis County commissioner and a former counselor and assistant director of the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, said in the release, “How exciting it is for Lewis County to be on the cutting edge of Blue Zones with exemplary leadership managing the development of this project?”
Blue Zones Activate in Lewis County will be led by Executive Director Shawna Herriford.
Herriford has 12 years of experience working for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a clinical pharmacist and as a “whole health champion,” the news release stated.
The initiative, while not publicly funded, will collaborate with Lewis County Public Health & Social Services, according to Director Meja Handlen.
“We would really like our health ranking to be better and Blue Zones is an evidence-based way to do that,” Handlen said in an email to The Chronicle.
Likewise, local health care providers are already set on collaborating, including Arbor Health and Valley View Health Center.
“I am super excited that Blue Zones has come to East Lewis County,” said Arbor Health’s Rehab Services and Community Wellness Director Edwin Meelhuysen. “In my 34 years in health care, I have seen the benefits of the Blue Zones lifestyle both in my own life and in the lives of those I have worked with. This is a tremendous opportunity for our whole community to come together and thrive.”
According to the news release, the single largest determinant of a person’s health is where they live. In the second phase of the initiative, collaborators work to improve the food environment and build healthy environmental policies.
Herriford said: “I am thrilled to be partnering with our local community leaders, organizations, and residents during this exciting time of transformation within Lewis County.”