Blue Zone result may end up being a blessing in disguise

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Prineville leaders to take on health improvement efforts of their own

Last week, community health leaders announced that Prineville was not selected as a Blue Zone community in Oregon.

After finding itself in the top group of communities under consideration last fall, local officials and members of a local Blue Zone steering committee hosted a site visit to drum up support for the new initiative, which seeks to improve health in a community and promote longevity in its residents.

After a long wait that stretched through the fall and nearly through the entire winter — longer than committee members had anticipated — Blue Zone Oregon officials told Prineville they would not be selected. As a result, the community would miss out on grant funding and other outside resources that are intended to boost health throughout the community.

While we suspect this was a disappointing result for those who invested their time and effort in securing a Blue Zone designation, we do not necessarily view this as a negative result. Certainly receiving grant funding dedicated to community health would help, but how long would this infusion last? Would the benefits of being a Blue Zone community last indefinitely? Perhaps Prineville leaders would find themselves on their own in the not-too-distant future anyway, and they would have to look inward for resources to keep the effort going or hope that other programs or grants exist that offer the same benefits.

Instead, in typical Prineville fashion, community leaders have decided to move forward on their own and find another way to raise funds and follow the ideals that Blue Zone promotes. Rather than rely on what is likely a finite solution from the outside, they will develop a program from within that could have staying power if it is run correctly.

The way we view it, what has happened should be looked at as a blessing in disguise. The opportunity to earn a Blue Zone community designation and all of the benefits that come with it encouraged additional people to band together and push for improved health throughout Prineville. The site visit held last fall brought even more attention to the effort. And now, left to either give up on the idea or take it by the reins and do it themselves, steering committee members are lining up grants — they already have a $25,000 commitment from St. Charles Health System — and making plans on how to increase the health of local residents.

So yes, it is disappointing to miss out on some help from a new program, but we can't help but wonder if in a few years from now, we won't be ahead of the game, and perhaps healthier for it.