Local leaders recently learned that Prineville was not selected as a Blue Zone, but a steering committee still intends to proceed with health-promoting activities.
Blue Zone is the name given to a community or area whose citizens enjoy better health and longevity. The term originated when National Geographic and longevity experts teamed up to traverse the globe and found pockets of people who reach age 100 at rates 10 times greater than people in the United States.
The steering committee applied for Prineville to be a new Blue Zone site this past August. It was then announced in late September that the community had been chosen as a top finalist by the Oregon Blue Zones Project. In early October, more than 130 local residents gathered at Meadow Lakes to discuss making Prineville the newest site of Blue Zones.
After the site visit, community leaders waited through the fall and winter months to find out if Prineville would make the final cut. They recently learned they did not, but rather than abandon the ideals behind the Blue Zone, they decided to move forward with activities that will lead to a healthier Crook County.
"Right now, we're thinking about a contest where community members can vote on a new name for the effort," said Wayne Looney, Kiwanian and member of the organizing committee. "We have some fun ideas, but there are many creative people in Crook County who probably have better ideas than we could ever come up with."
The steering committee is excited to begin work on the Crook County-led initiative, and with the effort being community led, the pace and program will more accurately reflect Crook County's values — and will make the initiative sustainable long-term.
After coming up with a name for the new initiative, the committee's first priority is to hire someone from the local community who can lead the charge on this project.
"We know from years of experience that asking people who already have full-time jobs to take on a project of this size as a side project dooms it to failure," says Donna Barnes, accounting manager at Ochoco Lumber and member of the organizing committee. "As soon as we raise a few more dollars, we will hire a coordinator to keep the processes moving forward."
Muriel DeLaVergne-Brown, Crook County Health and Human Services Director, said the committee will seek out grant funds from other organizations as they begin the process.
"We recognize the value of a project like this, and we are extremely excited about the huge amount of positive feedback so far from the community," she said. "That is why the committee is committed to continuing this effort. St. Charles Health System has already committed $25,000 to get the ball rolling."