Ex­tend­ing the healthy years

City of Air­drie has de­signs on be­com­ing the ‘Blue Zone’ of Al­berta

Calgary Herald - - CITY + REGION - Watch for our next is­sue on Mon­day, May 25.

What do places such as Greece, Japan, Costa Rica, and Loma Linda, Calif., all have in com­mon? These are some of the ge­o­graphic ar­eas of the world where some of the old­est peo­ple in the world are from, and if Air­drie has its way, it will be join­ing this list, as well.

Over the past three years, the City of Air­drie has worked with Abrio Health, health ser­vices stake­hold­ers and the com­mu­nity at large to con­duct a needs as­sess­ment to de­ter­mine what ar­eas of fo­cus lo­cal res­i­dents want and need in an ef­fort to be­come Canada’s health­i­est com­mu­nity.

“Out of that as­sess­ment came a col­lec­tive un­der­stand­ing that peo­ple wanted to be health­ier but didn’t nec­es­sar­ily know how, or more to the point, needed sup­port,” says Mark Se­land, pres­i­dent, Abrio Health. “Abrio Health and the City (of Air­drie) re­searched in­ter­na­tional best prac­tices in an ef­fort to un­der­stand pro­gram­ming re­lat­ing to achiev­ing bet­ter health, as well as our ex­ist­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary healthcare ser­vices and treat­ment when peo­ple are ill.”

After ex­ten­sive in­ter­na­tional best prac­tice re­search, The City of Air­drie and Abrio Health se­lected Blue Zones Pro­ject (BZP) as the pro­gram part­ner to en­gage and im­ple­ment health pro­gram­ming in mul­ti­ple sec­tors con­cur­rently.

“Blue Zones Pro­ject uti­lizes a proven, re­search-in­formed mea­sure­ment sys­tem to un­der­stand changes in in­di­vid­ual and pop­u­la­tion health and cor­re­lates these changes against cor­re­spond­ing changes in med­i­cal and acute care us­age and costs,” says Se­land.

“In other Blue Zones com­mu­ni­ties, im­ple­men­ta­tion of this frame­work has not only mea­sur­ably proven peo­ple live health­ier and longer, but sig­nif­i­cant sav­ings to the health-care sys­tem are re­al­ized as some chronic and pre­ventable diseases and con­di­tions can be pre­vented.”

Se­land be­lieves that if peo­ple can change their life­styles, the im­pact of these diseases can be dras­ti­cally re­duced.

“Many of the most preva­lent diseases that im­pact our health and our health-care bud­gets are life­style diseases like di­a­betes, car­dio­vas­cu­lar disease, hy­per­ten­sion and COPD,” Se­land says.

“If we can change our life­style, we can change the im­pact of these diseases on our health, health-care sys­tem re­quire­ments and cost.”

Ac­cord­ing to Se­land, early pro­jec­tions es­ti­mate that over a 10-year pe­riod in Air­drie alone, the Blue Zones Pro­ject could lead to $54 mil­lion in health-care sav­ings, $39 mil­lion in pro­duc­tiv­ity in­creases, and $15 mil­lion in eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment, for a to­tal boost to the lo­cal com­mu­nity of $107 mil­lion.

“The cur­rent Blue Zones ap­proach is in­spired by Na­tional Ge­o­graphic-sup­ported re­search that iden­ti­fied five ar­eas in the world where peo­ple were found to live longer, ‘nudged’ to make health choices (by) their phys­i­cal and so­cial en­vi­ron­ments,” ex­plains Se­land.

From these nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring “Blue Zones,” the for­mal­ized sys­tem that is now be­ing im­ple­mented in Air­drie is based around nine com­mon­al­i­ties found in each of the orig­i­nal Blue Zones, known as the Power 9. These fit into four gen­eral cat­e­gories, in­clud­ing mov­ing nat­u­rally, eat­ing wisely, right out­look and be­long­ing.

“In other com­mu­ni­ties where BZP has been im­ple­mented, there are many im­por­tant lessons we would like to ex­plore within the Air­drie BZP for se­niors specif­i­cally,” says Se­land. “Help­ing se­niors live longer in their healthy years is the goal.

“We have seen a num­ber of ex­am­ples to sup­port this goal, such as mo­bi­liz­ing con­nec­tions across for­mal and in­for­mal ser­vices in the com­mu­nity, cre­at­ing safety nets within neigh­bour­hoods and, ul­ti­mately, find­ing lo­cal ways to ad­dress iso­la­tion and lone­li­ness — a sig­nif­i­cant con­trib­u­tor to se­niors’ health.”

Se­land says they have seen ex­am­ples to en­cour­age an in­ter­gen­er­a­tional fo­cus for healthy liv­ing and ag­ing in our own com­mu­ni­ties. In some places this looks like af­ford­able hous­ing across gen­er­a­tions; in oth­ers, it is in­ter-gen­er­a­tional in­volve­ment in schools.

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LOOK­ING AHEAD

If we can change our life­style, we can change the im­pact of diseases on our health, health-care sys­tem re­quire­ments and cost.”

GETTY IM­AGES

The Blue Zones Pro­ject in Air­drie will be work­ing to help se­niors live health­ier lives, with ex­er­cise a key com­po­nent.

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