Whole Foods Market, along with Austin leaders, has joined forces with Blue Zones to begin creating a plan for well-being transformation. It will start with an in-depth assessment by the Blue Zones team of the Austin Metro area and population that will help determine how to make it a healthier and happier place to live, work, grow up and grow old.
Blue Zones is based on research and principles developed by Dan Buettner, National Geographic fellow and New York Times bestselling author, who identified the cultures of the world—or blue zones—with the healthiest, longest-living populations.
Health and life expectancy have been on a decline in America, and research shows that where people live has a bigger influence on their health than their genetics. Blue Zones says it addresses this “ZIP code effect” using scientifically proven lessons of longevity, health and happiness gleaned from 20 years of research to boost the well-being of entire communities.
“I’m excited to partner personally with Austin and Whole Foods and to lead our global experts to explore opportunities to increase the health and well-being of everyone in the region,” said Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones.
“Blue Zones is invested in creating meaningful and lasting change in communities and we’re excited to team up in our hometown of Austin to explore innovative ways to improve wellness,” said John Mackey, CEO and co-founder of Whole Foods Market. “Their holistic approach to improving health and wellbeing complements Whole Foods Market’s mission to nourish people and the planet.”
Whole Foods Market was founded in Austin, Texas, 40 years ago. It currently operates six stores in Austin and the surrounding metro and more than 500 locations across the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
By focusing on the Life Radius—the area close to home where people spend 90 percent of their lives—Blue Zones says it has been able to move the needle in improving overall population health, raising employee and student productivity and boosting economic vitality and development.
The first phase of Blue Zones Activate is the assessment, where Blue Zones experts work with local leaders to assess readiness and build a plan for change. The team, made up of global experts in food systems, built environment, tobacco, alcohol and happiness, will begin immediate work with leaders and organizations to assess the strengths, needs and challenges that Austin Metro residents are facing today. The Blue Zones team will create a transformation plan that, once implemented, the company says can drive widespread improvements in well-being, reductions in health-related costs and improve economic vitality in the region.
The needs, desires and readiness of the community helps determine where to go next—into a Phase II or a Phase III path to improving the well-being of the region. Phase II of Blue Zones Activate focuses on policy improvement as the most powerful and cost-effective lever in improving the health of a region. Blue Zones works with local leaders to identify and then implement key policy changes which serve as long-lasting interventions for current and future generations. Phase III is a Blue Zones Project—the full Life Radius Model, which focuses on people, places and policy. This community-wide approach optimizes manmade surroundings, systems, and social networks so that healthier choices are easier in all the places people live, work learn and play.
Ben Leedle, CEO of Blue Zones, says, “We are excited to work with Whole Foods and community leaders in Austin in this shared purpose of improving the lives of current and future generations in this region. We know improved well-being leads to healthier and happier residents, a better and more productive workforce and a more vibrant, sustainable economy.”