Second Anniversary of the Blue Zones Project in Klamath Falls
By Amy Morikawa, Staff Writer
The Blue Zones Project (BZP) celebrated its second anniversary in Klamath Falls on March 12, 2018. They have become ingrained in the Klamath County community since their official launch in 2016 and plan to stay for at least three more years.
The BZP is a well-being initiative that seeks to improve the health of a target community. Before the BZP came to Klamath, the county was listed very low in public health statistics standing at thirty-second out of the thirty-three counties in Oregon. Due to its potential to progress, Klamath Falls was ultimately selected as a target community for the BZP.
“The BZP closely examined the Klamath Falls community as well as sent out surveys to gauge our community to see if we were ready for BZP,” says BZP Organization Lead, Jessie Hecocta. “These gauges evaluated where we are physically, where we are mentally, where we are finan-cially, where we are with our purpose, and where we are with our social connection and commu-nity pride.”
These five major points helped BZP determine needed areas of improvement in Klamath Falls. The impact of Blue Zones has become extremely prevalent in Klamath due to the consistent work with both the county and city governments. As a result, the BZP is involved in policymak-ing on a greater scale and are informed when new health policies are passed.
Examples of the influence of BZP on the Klamath community are the El Dorado overlay has be-gun, which involves filling gaps in sidewalks near Oregon Tech to promote physical exercise. Also, a park will be constructed in memorial to Stephanie Van Dyke who played a key role in bringing the BZP to Klamath Falls.
On its recent anniversary, the Klamath Falls BZP made a commitment to this community for an additional three more years. To stay organized in their goal-oriented structure, the staff at Blue Zones uses a “blue print,” which is a list of goals, timeframes for completion, and the means to reach these goals. Some of these goals include becoming involved in summer school outreach and reengaging with the work site committees previously involved with the project.
Oregon Tech students are encouraged to get involved with the BZP. Some civil engineering stu-dents have proposed more pedestrian friendly downtown areas to improve walkability and cross-walks. The GIS program is creating walking maps for local employees.
Students can also engage in volunteer opportunities with the BZP by joining the Blue Zones club that began at the start of this school year.