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Ogden dreams of healthier cultures, longer lifespans in Tigard, Tualatin

Tualatin mayor is encouraging joint application for 'Blue Zones' status.

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Quirio and Donna Alrcon Elizondop of Tualatin dance at a summer concert on the Tualatin Commons last year. Both Tigard and Tualatin already promote citizen recreation, says Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden, who thinks it makes sense for the cities to apply jointly to become a 'Blue Zones' demonstration site.An assemblage of partners from the public and private sectors in Tigard and Tualatin are headed toward applying for a state designation and funding that advocates hope will transform the way residents of the area live — and, perhaps, lengthen the years they do.

Tualatin Mayor Lou Ogden has been embarking on a full-court press this month to put together support for the proposed application. He wants Tigard and Tualatin to be selected jointly as the state's second Blue Zones demonstration community, putting them in line for funding and support made possible by the Portland-based Cambia Health Foundation.

The term “Blue Zones” refers to areas in the world where researchers have identified people living notably longer, and with greater health and vigor into old age, than elsewhere in the world. The concept was popularized by National Geographic in 2005, and later in a 2008 book by Dan Buettner, who wrote the magazine story.

Ogden hopes Tigard and Tualatin can replicate some of the success Buettner and others have identified in the lifestyles of people living in so-called Blue Zones like Sardinia, Italy; Okinawa, Japan; and Icaria, Greece. More than two dozen communities elsewhere in the United States have seen positive benefits from participating in the Blue Zones Project, a partnership between the companies Blue Zones and Healthways, he noted.

“It isn't just you've got to go on a diet, or you've got to put your pedometer and count your steps,” Ogden said Saturday, speaking at the Winona Grange in Tualatin. “It's a holistic sort of notion in these cultures.”

Lou Ogden.Ogden approached the Tigard City Council on Tuesday with a presentation and asked the city to endorse the joint application.

“I would propose that Tigard and Tualatin jointly become one community of interest, and we submit this proposal to the Oregon Business Council,” he said. “Here's the key, from my perspective. This is not the city of Tualatin's proposal. It is not the city of Tigard's proposal. It's not Washington County's proposal. It's a community proposal.”

Councilors in Tigard were receptive, suggesting the Blue Zones Project ties in well with Tigard's goal of promoting walkability and increasing recreational opportunities for residents.

“I think this is a great community-building project,” said Councilor Marland Henderson.

Councilor John Goodhouse remarked, “I think this is perfect. I think nowadays that since people's lives are so hectic and busy that people don't really know to kind of go back to basics. … I think this is a perfect way to get communities back into eating right and the simple processes of being healthy and exercising.”

The Tigard City Council unanimously adopted a resolution endorsing the application.

A similar resolution is on the Tualatin City Council's agenda next Monday. Ogden said he has lined up support from the Tigard-Tualatin School District, Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, Washington County, and a number of businesses, churches and community groups as well, and he also plans to seek the backing of Clackamas County, into which Tualatin's eastern end juts.

Ogden also won the backing on the Winona Grange after addressing its officers Saturday.

“I move that Winona Grange go on record as being very much in favor of joining (the application),” said Loyce Martinazzi, whose motion was adopted unanimously.

The Blue Zones Project named Klamath Falls as its first Blue Zones demonstration community in Oregon last year. Ogden said he has spoken with Klamath Falls' mayor and was told the community in southern Oregon is already seeing the benefits, with advisers encouraging the city and its partners to promote healthier living.

Applications are now being accepted for a second Blue Zones community in Oregon.

If Tigard and Tualatin end up applying to be a Blue Zones community, the deadline is Aug. 26. Three finalists will then be identified in the coming months before one is named to receive a three-year investment through Cambia, including a $1 million annual grant, Ogden said.

The community that is selected must provide at least $200,000 in local matching funds for the grant, Ogden noted. He is hoping that Providence Health & Services and Legacy Health, which operate medical facilities in the Tigard-Tualatin area, will provide that money.

“They are pursuing that,” he told the Winona Grange officers. “They haven't said no. We're talking to them at the highest levels, and I'm confident that they will come up with that local match.”

By Mark Miller
Assistant Editor
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