This weekend could mark the beginning of a game-changer for Shawnee's and Pottawatomie County's dismal health ratings.

This weekend could mark the beginning of a game-changer for Shawnee's and Pottawatomie County's dismal health ratings.

At the free, family-friendly Blue Zones Project Pottawatomie County Kickoff Celebration initiated the start of an active, concerted effort to improve the community's — and county's — overall wellbeing.

About 700 area residents gathered in Shawnee High School's Performing Arts and Athletic Center (PAAC) to get to know their available resources and learn how to plug in small lifestyle changes — across multiple arenas in life — to promote longer, higher-quality lives.

Saturday morning's event was the culmination of countless man-hours and efforts spent by many community leaders, movers and shakers to promote a more healthful lifestyle to the area.

The Avedis Foundation President Michelle Briggs said the nonprofit is excited about the Blue Zones Program.

Avedis was the driving force that brought the Blue Zones initiative here.

“We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to making the healthy choice the easy choice from everyone involved so far,” she said.

The kickoff served as an official introduction to the community, explaining how the program began, what it does and how it hopes to encourage wellbeing by locally integrating more healthful options in all areas of life.

National speaker and Senior Vice President of Business Development at Blue Zones Tony Buettner shared what residents can hope to expect through the program, as well as explained how the concept was fine-tuned to fit this community; Shawnee is the first in the state and 42nd in the world to embrace the Blue Zones initiative.

Buettner said, through studies and research, the program came up with a recipe of principles that are present in every hotspot discovered achieving longer, healthier lives.

The Power 9 include:

• Down shift — Reverse disease by finding a stress-relieving strategy that works for you;

• Purpose — Wake up with purpose each day to add up to seven years to your life;

• Plant slant — Put less meat and more plants on your plate;

• Wine @ Five — Enjoy a glass of wine with good friends each day;

• Family First — Invest time with family and add up to six years to your life;

• 80 Percent Rule — Eat mindfully and stop when 80-percent full;

• Move Naturally — Find ways to move more. You burn calories without thinking about it;

• Right Tribe — Surround yourself with people who support positive behaviors; and

• Belong — Belong to a faith-based community and attend services four times a month to add four to 14 years to your lifespan.

To learn more about the Blue Zones Project, call (405) 765-8071 or visit