Blue Zone Project – Brevard

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From the September 5, 2019 issue of the Transylvania Times

Initiative to Help Brevard Make Healthier Choices

Brevard has been chosen as the 50th community to be a Blue Zones Project, an initiative that makes healthy choices easier through permanent and semi-permanent changes to a community’s built environment, policy and social networks, according to a news release.

The Pisgah Health Foundation, previously known as the Transylvania Regional Hospital Foundation, Sharecare, Inc., and Blue Zones, LLC, announced the launch.

Blue Zones Project – Brevard is the first demonstration community in both North Carolina and the mid-Southeastern region of the United States.

Based on research by National Geographic Fellow and best-selling author Dan Buettner, Blue Zones Project – Brevard will draw upon more than 200 evidence-based best practices to help citizens, community leaders, restaurants, schools, faith-based organizations, grocery stores and worksites make sustainable changes that encourage healthier choices, according to the press release. Existing Blue Zones Project communities across the country have achieved unprecedented success, the release said, in moving the needle on improving population health with this environmental approach. Blue Zones Project – Brevard will begin its leadership planning phase this month. The initial phase will unite local community stakeholders under one banner to improve the health and well-being of local residents, in tandem with the Pisgah Health Foundation’s work.

Over the past 30 years, Pisgah Health Foundation raised more than $40 million in clinical support of the patient-physician experience. Blue Zones Project was identified by the foundation’s Board of Trustees in early 2019 as a vehicle to focus on environmental interventions outside the standard patient-provider relationship. The project serves as a workable pilot that can be replicated in other communities across Western North Carolina, according to the release.

“We found that Brevard and Transylvania County have select social determinants of health and well-being challenges and opportunities for which Blue Zones Project has been proven effective” said Ben Leedle, CEO, Blue Zones, LLC.

The Blue Zones Project organization was invited in May to conduct a three-day community health and well-being assessment at Brevard College.

The series of workshops and listening sessions were designed to spark social cohesion in the community, according to the press release.

“Health care providers in our region for years have endorsed Blue Zones practices and programs with patients and citizens alike,” said Lex Green, the Pisgah Health Foundation’s president. “Implementing a Blue Zones Project in North Carolina is precedent-setting. Well-being data shows the methodologies are proven to lower childhood obesity rates, improve specific social wellness factors and extend the average lifespan of the community at large.”

Blue Zones’ nine principles for wellness can be found in the best-selling book “The Blue Zones” by Buettner.

“Their social cohesion focus filled a unique gap in our efforts to improve the health and wellness of citizens in Western North Carolina and Brevard,” said Cathleen Blanchard, the Pisgah Health Foundation’s chair.

A recognition and informative engagement is being planned for Tuesday, Sept. 10, at Brevard College’s Porter Center.

Participants of the May 2019 Blue Zone Site visit are invited to attend along with citizens interested in learning more about the initiative.

The inaugural year for the new North Carolina project begins in February of 2020 and will represent a three-year effort to make permanent and semi-permanent changes to the man-made surroundings of Brevard that will make citizens healthier, happier, more purposeful and better connected as they thrive in their communities, according to the release.

Community members and organizations in Brevard will be given the opportunity to get involved in BZP programs and offerings.

“The Pisgah Health Foundation has a history of embracing innovative population health solutions designed to positively impact the health of residents across Western North Carolina,” said Michael Acker, a senior vice president and general manager of Blue Zones Project. “We look forward to working with Brevard change makers as we introduce Blue Zones Project to the region.”

To learn more about Blue Zones Project – Brevard, visit

For more information on the Pisgah Health Foundation, contact Green at

The Pisgah Health Foundation Board of Trustees includes Blanchard; Dave Neumann, treasurer; Dr. Jamie Ramsey, secretary; Jeremy Purcell, vice chair; Dr. Jim Wright, trustee; Dr. Jim Tyson, trustee; and Art Fisher, trustee.

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