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Fort Worth could save millions through Blue Zones effortAugust 23, 2013
A. Lee Graham
Fort Worth could save $300 million over five years and enjoy $1 billion in improved productivity as it pursues a healthy living initiative sweeping the nation.
Explaining those projected savings at the pre-council portion of the Aug. 20 city council meeting was Barclay E. Berdan, chief operating officer of Texas Health Resources.
“That’s a pretty good return on investment,” said Berdan, explaining the monetary – and medical – benefits of an initiative already under way.
How much that investment will total has not been determined, though Berdan suggested that funding come from private organizations. Employers and larger insurers, among other resources, could be asked to help fund a staff to run the operation.
Health care – at home and in the workplace – underscores the Blue Zones initiative.
The movement denotes identifying a demographic or geographic area where people enjoy unusually long lifespans. The term comes from author Dan Buettner’s book The Blue Zones: Lessons for Living Longer From People Who Live The Longest.
The effort is a community initiative to make healthy choices easier through changes in environment, policy and social networks. By helping people live longer and healthier through behavioral change, proponents of the concept believe communities can lower health care costs, improve productivity and gain national recognition as desired places to live, work and play.
“If there is a community of this size in the country that can take this on successfully, this community can do it,” said Bill Thornton, president of the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce, in a video presentation shown at the council meeting.
Partnering to bring Blue Zones methodology to Texas are Texas Health Resources and Healthways Inc., a Nashville-based provider of health-care solutions.
Mayor Betsy Price and others kicked off the Fort Worth initiative with an early-morning bike ride in July. The next step calls for creating community support by establishing a Blue Zones steering committee to help develop strategies citywide and for individual neighborhoods. The idea would be to generate interest citywide before inspiring individual neighborhoods to follow.
“Together, we are developing a new model for health services in North Texas, one that we believe will improve the health of the people in the communities we serve,” Berdan said.
Price has high hopes for the program.
“Fort Worth can be the benchmark city for America,” Price said. “That brings us more economic development. It brings more vitality for the city.”
Equally upbeat was District 7 Councilman Dennis Shingleton.
“I think that the best way to do it is just as you described it,” Shingleton told Berdan after learning the implementation plan. “Let’s get our neighborhoods involved.”
More information is available at www.bluezones.com.