The transforming success of the Blue Zones Project Monterey County continues to expand thanks to the enthusiasm of thousands of participants across the Central Coast. In 2020, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System partnered with Taylor Farms and Montage Health to implement Blue Zones Project throughout the county with the objective of improving community health through collaborative partnerships.
The initiative has grown to include more than two dozen workplaces, collectively employing thousands of individuals, and an increasing number of schools, restaurants and grocery stores. All are working toward a common goal of making healthy choices easier and helping people build on simple and sustainable habits to lead a balanced life.
Blue Zones Project Monterey County’s official expansion throughout Monterey County and the cities on the Monterey Peninsula kicked off in August 2021. On the Peninsula, neighbors joined forces to clean up beaches and parks. New friendships were formed in dozens of walking and hiking social groups that launched to meet regularly at shoreline recreation trails, nature preserves, cityscapes and other landmarks. Throughout Monterey County, in addition to walking groups celebrating National Take a Hike Day, Blue Zones Project Monterey County engaged members of the community through outreach and awareness events held in collaboration with farmers markets, other local food markets and schools.
Making an Impact Communitywide
“Creating opportunities for residents to engage in their community and contribute to a space or program that promotes well-being is the focus.”
Tiffany DiTullio, Executive Director, Blue Zones Project Monterey County
Furthering goals to create more smoke-free places, the advocacy of Blue Zones Project Monterey County contributed to the Monterey County Board of Supervisors’ update of its no-smoking ordinance to include county parks. Another forward-thinking concept included stocking the checkout lanes of a local grocery store with water and fruit – a concept Blue Zones Project Monterey County is working to expand into additional locations.
Blue Zones Project Monterey County efforts have also taken flight in Salinas. At Natividad Creek Park, volunteers created an outdoor educational space for World Cleanup Day. At the Salinas Regional Soccer Complex, helpers installed workout equipment and now host regular cleanup events to keep this community favorite a place for all to enjoy.
Innovation in Promoting Awareness and Prevention
Blue Zones Project Monterey County is the first Blue Zones Project to create a disease-specific innovation. Implemented in 90% of Blue Zones Project-approved schools and worksites, the outreach is a direct response to a local epidemic in the county where 45% of the population is either diabetic or prediabetic.
In sharing information about risk factors and symptoms of diabetes, as well as potential long-term health complications from the disease, Blue Zones Project Monterey County optimizes preventive health benefits at workplaces, promotes local treatment programs and resources, and provides nutrition information to schools to educate students.
“Empowering the community with information so their health behaviors are deliberate versus default is important,” DiTullio says.
Celebrating Success and Looking Toward the Future
Already making great strides in engaging and inspiring Monterey County’s residents and communities to healthier and happier lives, Blue Zones Project Monterey County is committed to building on the groundswell of support it has generated. Already, 33 worksites, 23 schools, 26 restaurants, three grocery stores and 13 community organizations have been Blue Zones Project-approved. More than 17,900 people have engaged in the project, and expansions into Gonzales and King City are underway.
Thanks to the foundation laid with schools in 2021 – from virtual programming enrichment to the optimization of outdoor learning environments – DiTullio anticipates that a wave of additional schools will participate in 2022. At workplaces, employers and employees are excited about their new commit-ment to a culture of well-being – a culture focused on community and connection and one that celebrates a lifestyle of making healthy choices easy.
As the local Blue Zones Project evolves, efforts are underway to align multiple organizations and launch sustainable collaborative opportunities, such as the Monterey County Food Policy Council that launched this year.
Visit info.bluezonesproject.com/montereycounty to learn more about Blue Zones Project Monterey County.