The Blue Zones Initiative, a global well-being effort, is on the verge of becoming a reality for Shawnee and Pottawatomie County.

The Blue Zones Initiative, a global well-being effort, is on the verge of becoming a reality for Shawnee and Pottawatomie County.

In a free kickoff slated toward the end of August, the community will celebrate the initiative's arrival and officially begin to establish its application, rallying residents to embrace some healthful options that have shown to be major players in achieving a longer life.

The Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County has spent recent months working with area leaders to develop a plan for improving the quality of life of its locals.

The free event will have vendor booths, giveaways, games, an obstacle course, volunteer opportunities and more, gathering many local organizations committed to a common goal — making healthful options for the community easier and more accessible.

After its launch in January — thanks to the Avedis Foundation — the Blue Zones Project organized several opportunities for the public to share input and have since been working with area leaders to put a plan into motion.

Avedis President and CEO Michelle Briggs said, “The feedback we received from our community (about Blue Zones) has been overwhelmingly positive. It is obvious that Pottawatomie County is ready to take the next step in improving the quality of life throughout our communities and we believe the project is the right approach to achieve that level of transformation.”

Blue Zones Senior Vice President Tony Buettner said he's never seen a community so poised to do extraordinary things.

Over the past several months, the Blue Zones Project team has collected data about Shawnee and Pottawatomie County and gathered insights from residents to learn about the area for the purpose of addressing problematic health statistics plaguing the community — and the state.

The Blue Zones Project team organized several public focus-group meetings, as well as some tours of the city and county during its Discovery Phase to learn more about the community and its residents.

That, coupled with a State Well-Being Rankings produced by the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index (WBI) in 2016, helped give the Blue Zones Project a starting point for the area — Blueprint strategies so the project prioritizes areas that have the greatest room for improvement.

The poll reports that Oklahoma ranked 48 out of 50 states for state well-being, indicating many areas for improvement.

The well-being domains of social, financial, and physical had the lowest scores, while the state ranked in the middle for purpose and community well-being.

• Well-being Index score (out of 100): 60.5

• Physical State Rank: 48

• Community State Rank: 33

• Financial State Rank: 46

• Social State Rank: 48

• Purpose State Rank: 35

When compared to Oklahoma City, the nation, and top metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs), Shawnee ranks above all in the areas of inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity. Only Oklahoma City beat Shawnee in tobacco use. The level of stress in Shawnee was reportedly very close with the nation and Oklahoma City, with MSAs a bit lower.

Disease prevalence showed Shawnee ranking above the others in diabetes, depression, cancer and physical pain.

City leaders, with the expert direction of the Blue Zones Project, aims to propel Shawnee and Pottawatomie County back in the other direction — toward a more positive, healthful position.

Several committees have been establishing groundwork in many key areas to be ready for viable application.

Momentum is already building, exhibiting signs that the effort has strength in its legs — well before its actual kickoff.

The Owl Shoppe, at 6 E. Main St., just celebrated a ribbon-cutting event last week, being hailed as the first business in Oklahoma to receive Blue Zones Project approval.

The Blue Zones Project's official kickoff event is Aug. 26 from 10 a.m. to noon at Shawnee High School's Performing Arts and Athletic Center (PAAC).

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