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LVHN, Allentown Partner on 'Blue Zones Activate' Healthy Living Initiative | WDIY Local News

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City of Allentown

An area health network has launched a new initiative to help residents live longer, healthier lives.

Lehigh Valley Health Network said Tuesday that it has partnered with the city of Allentown to launch “Blue Zones Activate.”

According to a release, this initiative helps people more easily make healthy choices, and is built off of research and principles developed by National Geographic Fellow and author Dan Buettner.

Buettner identified so-called “Blue Zones” throughout the world, which are said to have the longest-living and healthiest populations.

These Blue Zones are Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Nicoya, Costa Rica; Ikaria, Greece, and Loma Linda, California.

Lehigh County State Rep. Josh Siegel recently spoke about these blue zones during an interview with WDIY.

“There are regions around the world where people have a lot more longevity, and they discovered core factors that contribute to that longevity,” Siegel explained.

“These are people that are living well past 100 years, and there’s a high concentration of folks that are living that long. And part of that is the environment.

“They live in places with cleaner air, better water…they live in environments that are frankly just better built, and so I actually think that is a really incredible foray that the Lehigh Valley is taking, it’s relatively new.”

The release said Blue Zones Activate will focus on the single largest determinant of health – where people live.

Instead of focusing on individual behavior changes, Blue Zones help communities make permanent changes to systems and surroundings in areas where people spend most of their time, called the “life radius.”

The Blue Zones website said the initiative encourages sustainable changes in the built environment, municipal policies and ordinances, as well as community spaces like restaurants, faith-based organizations and workplaces.

It also asks communities to focus on creating healthy social networks, habitats and living spaces, as well as encourage people to reduce stress and give back to their community.

This transformation is described as improving overall population health and well-being, raising employee and student productivity, and boosting economic vitality and development.

The release also said communities participating in the Blue Zone initiative have experienced double-digit drops in obesity and tobacco use, and have saved millions of dollars in health care costs.

LVHN said Blue Zones Activate will begin with an in-depth readiness assessment of the Allentown area to determine how to make it a healthier place for residents to live and work.

In a statement, Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk said Blue Zones Activate “marks a step forward in building a healthier and more equitable Allentown, which aligns with our vision to create a more sustainable and vibrant community.”

LVHN’s President and CEO Dr. Brian Nester also stated that by partnering with Allentown and Blue Zones, “we have an opportunity to expand our efforts in Allentown and work together to address the social determinants of health that impact our patients and their families.”

(Original air-date: 5/25/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.