Chuck Skillings said about a year ago a group of people got together and wanted to do something visible in regard to Blue Zones.

Chuck Skillings said about a year ago a group of people got together and wanted to do something visible in regard to Blue Zones.

Changing culture and changing health is hard to measure, he said; it's hard to feel. It takes a lot of time.

“We wanted to do something to further engage at least part of the community,” he said.

The package that “something” comes in is Shawnee's first wellbeing district.

Four in the beginning had a conversation with the Blue Zones staff — Skillings, Dr. April Grace, Dr. David Whitlock and Marty Lewis — and asked for ideas about how can Shawnee really launch something in a very visible and meaningful way.

"It is an opportunity to do something for our community that will send a message to the public that comes into the community that this is forefront for our community," Skillings said. "This is something we are engaged in; we're hoping our little part of Shawnee will be the cornerstone."

This is something that will grow over time, he said.

Blue Zones Project Organization Lead Miriam Bell said the Wellbeing District is an environmental, geographical approach to wellbeing.

“The trajectory that we are on with wellbeing is scary,” she said. “We know that for the first time ever the next generation is going to live shorter lives.”

That trajectory has to be changed, she said.

“This coalition of leaders really came up with the idea of a wellbeing district; to be that tangible statement of creating an environment that supports wellbeing,” Bell said. “We need our community to be prepared, supported and encouraged in their personal transformation — and that's what the wellbeing district is really about.”

What Blue Zones Project is challenging local leaders to do is to define an area, define criteria and tackle some really tough issues in tobacco environment, the food environment, the built environment and then media promotions.

Ward 1 City Commissioner Ed Bolt said this initiative falls in line with what the city has been doing for the past year to year and a half.

“It makes perfect sense to me,” he said.

Mayor Richard Finley said the idea is a big deal.

“I understand this is the first one in Oklahoma,” he said. “I've been involved in this; I can't even begin to describe how big a deal this is for Shawnee and for the future development of our city, along with our workforce.”

He said people tend to think in terms of health, but residents need to think of it in terms of a place that people want to live.

“These kids are not like we were,” he said. “We went where the job was — they don't do that now. They go where they want to live and find a job when they get there.”

If Shawnee wants to be successful in recruiting people to live here and work in the local plants that are so necessary for the sales tax that the community lives off of, he said the community has to get people to want to live here.

“Everything they are about, and most of what we're about and many of the groups around town that are so successfully implementing these things are about creating a place where people want to be,” he said.

Bell said the initial district was defined by the initial influencers.

“They wanted to go through the practice,” she said. “They want to experience the process in their own back yards, and the impact where they live, work and play.”

Bell said the area is from 39th Street to Farrall, and then between Kickapoo Spur and Darion Gordon, Leo and then Kennedy.

“So it includes the airport, the northern portion is SSM (the hospital), Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU), and the central area includes the YMCA, Shawnee Early Childhood Center (SECC) and Shawnee High School.”

The southern portion is highly residential, she said.

“The Housing Authority is involved and the new (Community Renewal) Friendship House,” she said.

The goal is to eventually expand citywide.

City Commissioners unanimously voted to approve a resolution in support of the first Wellbeing District.