City of Charleston considering Blue Zones Project aimed to help people live better lives

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - What if your environment could help you make healthier choices and improve your quality of life?

That's the idea behind the Blue Zones Project.

It's an initiative that implements programs and policies aimed to help people live longer and better lives.

On Wednesday, the City of Charleston in partnership with the MUSC Office of Health Promotion hosted a community leadership meeting about the Blue Zones Project at Charles Towne Landing.

The National Spokesperson and Director of Business Development for the Blue Zones Project, Tony Buettner, travels around the country to inform people about the Blue Zones.

He's also the brother of the founder.

"Blue Zones are these incredible areas around the world where people are living on average 10 years longer than we do here in America and seeing only a fraction of the chronic disease that we struggle with," Buettner said.

Health Promotion Director at MUSC, Susan Johnson, says the project is a game changer.

"It's really creating an environment that nudges people to make better choices so it's not hard and fast rules," she said."It's wherever they go in their life radius they have opportunities to engage in healthier behaviors."

The project has identified nine commonalities for longevity in Blue Zone areas.

Some of those include people who get physical activity naturally where it's already built in their day, having a sense of purpose, eating wisely with a plant based diet and connecting with loved ones and putting family first.

"A lot of it has to do with policy," Johnson said.

For instance some of the changes being made in communities include putting healthy food and drinks by the checkout lines, having workplaces encourage movement throughout the day and restricting food consumption in classrooms.

"In another community, childhood obesity went down 50 percent," Buettner said.

Wednesday was the first step in the exploring the idea of bringing the project to the Charleston area.

The idea is to impact places where people live, work, pray and play.

"It's very much what is best for us, we decide what things we want to focus on," Johnson said.

If the project is approved by the city it would take months for planning and improvements would take place over the course of years.

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