COOS COUNTY — One-by-one, counties across the state are promoting healthy eating through the Blue Zones Project. Several Coos County members are striving to receive this designation here.
The Blue Zones Project was born out of the “Blue Zones” novel by Dan Buettner who traveled around the world looking for places where people lived long, productive lives. He found five areas and identified common characteristics from those places that are now promoted through the Blue Zones Project, which takes a team into a community to implement those shared patterns of healthy living.
The Oregon State University Extension Coos and Curry office is leading the local Healthy Eating, Active Living committee to do just that. Back in 2017, the HEAL committee applied for Coos County to become a Blue Zone. The process brought 75 local “decision makers” or influencers from schools and government positions to take part in the Blue Zones interview.
“I was a great experience, but we weren’t selected because we need to invest in our community still,” said Stephanie Polizzi, chairman of HEAL and employee with the OSU extension office for Coos and Curry counties.
Though Coos County wasn’t ready to receive the Blue Zone designation, it remains a goal for HEAL and Polizzi.
Last week, HEAL brought those decision makers from the interview back together to reengage these efforts. To be part of a panel for the event, Polizzi invited her fellow extension officer from Klamath County, the first in Oregon to receive the Blue Zone designation. She also invited a registered dietitian and fellow extension officer from Jackson and Josephine counties, as well as one from Tillamook County with a PhD in nutrition.
“The goal was to focus on healthy eating and how they got healthy eating rolling in their county so we can do the same thing here,” Polizzi said.
Lisa DeSalvio, special programs director at the Coos Bay School District, attended the event and provided The World with a county health ranking comparison between Coos, Josephine, Klamath and Tillamook counties.
Coos County received the highest rating for diabetes prevalence at 13 percent. It also received the highest rating for health care costs.
To begin leading people to eat better, Polizzi said some ideas taken from the panel included more community gardens.
“Some changes that Klamath Falls did were in restaurants, where some adopted more plant-based foods and put heart-friendly identifiers in the menu next to healthier foods, and where work places provided healthy food during meetings,” Polizzi said. “Klamath Falls also got some grocery stores to put signage on the floor directing people to healthy foods and changed their end caps to healthy foods instead of potato chips and soda.”
To get involved in the Healthy Eating Initiative, email Polizzi at Stephanie.Polizzi@oregonstate.edu. Local groups or individuals can also attend the HEAL meetings. The next meeting is Feb. 21 at the Advanced Health office at 3 p.m.