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PETALUMA, CAMay 31, 2023 — Healthy Petaluma District and Foundation (Healthy Petaluma) and the City of Petaluma announce the launch of a city-wide Blue Zones Project to help residents live better, longer lives. Blue Zones Project is a comprehensive initiative that helps communities transform their environments to support healthy lifestyles and to measurably improve community well-being, resilience, and economic vitality.

Blue Zones Project is a first-of-its-kind population health initiative based on research and principles developed by Dan Buettner, Blue Zones founder and National Geographic Fellow and Explorer who identified the cultures of the world—or blue zones—with the healthiest, longest-living populations.

Healthy Petaluma funded the initial Blue Zones Activate assessment, engaging the participation and collaboration of the City of Petaluma and over 100 community partners. During that time, the Blue Zones team did a deep dive into the city to determine if it was feasible to launch a community-wide initiative.

The resulting in-depth readiness assessment found that, despite trending healthier than the national average, Petaluma displays room for improvement. According to Gallup findings included in the report, one out of two Petaluma residents are overweight or obese, two out of three are struggling with their health, and two out of five experience regular financial stress. These and other key reports of well-being confirmed the district’s understanding that there are growing disparities among residents, particularly in youth, physical, and mental well-being. Blue Zones Project Petaluma will open doors for the community to prioritize and tackle issues at policy, environmental, and social levels.

“We are thrilled to join forces with Healthy Petaluma to launch Blue Zones Project Petaluma,” said Mayor Kevin McDonnell. “This initiative aligns perfectly with our values as a community, and we are excited to work within our vast network of community partnerships and residents to make Petaluma a healthier, happier, and more connected place to live.”

Research shows that where people live has a bigger influence on their health than their genetics, so Blue Zones Project focuses on the Life Radius®—the area close to home where people spend 90% of their lives. Blue Zones Project communities optimize public policies, social connections, and the places and spaces where people spend the most time (streets, parks, schools, workplaces, grocery stores, faith communities, homes) to help make healthy choices easy and more accessible to all. Participating communities have seen double-digit drops in obesity and smoking rates, economic investment in downtown corridors, grant funding awards to support policies and programs to improve health equity, and measurable savings in healthcare costs, among other positive outcomes.

“Launching Blue Zones Project Petaluma is an exciting milestone for Healthy Petaluma as we further our mission to improve the health and well-being of southern Sonoma County,” said Ramona Faith, CEO of Healthy Petaluma. “After learning about the Blue Zones model years ago and speaking with other communities that have engaged Blue Zones, we pursued efforts to engage their team here in Petaluma, starting with a highly successful Blue Zones Assessment last year. We, along with a coalition of community partners, believe the program’s evidence-based approach is a great fit to measurably improve Petaluma’s well-being, resilience, and economic vitality, particularly after the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. We look forward to the positive outcomes that this initiative will bring.”

The launch of Blue Zones Project represents the beginning of a multi-year collaborative effort that involves the entire community working together toward one common goal – to support and build a culture of community health and well-being. The local implementation team began the 9-month foundation and planning phase in April and a kickoff event will occur early next year. Find more information about the Blue Zones Project Petaluma by clicking here.

Ben Leedle, CEO of Blue Zones and co-founder of Blue Zones Project, said: “We commend the leaders in Petaluma that have invested in creating an environment and culture of well-being that will benefit current and future generations of residents. Higher well-being means healthier and happier residents, boosted economic vitality, and lower healthcare costs. Our team looks forward to helping Petaluma flourish and serve as a model for other communities to follow.”

About Blue Zones Project®
Blue Zones Project® is a community-led well-being improvement initiative designed to make healthy choices easier through permanent changes to a city’s environment, policy, and social networks. Blue Zones Project is based on research by Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and New York Times best-selling author who identified five cultures of the world—or blue zones —with the highest concentration of people living to 100 years or older. Blue Zones Project incorporates Buettner’s findings and works with cities to implement policies and programs that will move a community toward optimal health and well-being. Blue Zones launched the first pilot community in 2009 in Albert Lea, MN with groundbreaking results. Directly and also in partnership with Sharecare, the model has since been applied to more than 75 communities in the United States. Participating communities have experienced double-digit drops in obesity and tobacco use and have saved millions of dollars in healthcare costs. For more information, visit bluezones.com.

About Healthy Petaluma District and Foundation
Formerly the Petaluma Health Care District, Healthy Petaluma District and Foundation is a community-owned and -operated agency comprising a special district and a 501(c)(3) foundation dedicated to improving the health and well-being of southern Sonoma County through leadership, advocacy, support, partnerships and education. Its vision is to foster a healthier community and equitable access to comprehensive health and wellness services. The district has ensured access to local acute care and emergency services and has served southern Sonoma County’s health and wellness needs since 1946. For more information, visit healthypetaluma.org.