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Blue Zones Project inspires resilient responses to COVID-19

The headwinds of 2020 blew us all off course — whether we contracted the coronavirus, felt the pain of losing a loved one, experienced financial setbacks, or were fortunate enough merely to have our plans for the new year put on hold.

But while the pandemic may have disrupted all our lives, it presented an opportunity to overcome and demonstrate our collective commitment to community resilience.

Based on research from the world’s longest-lived people and supported by ongoing research from our Community Well-Being Index, Blue Zones Project by Sharecare transforms community well-being outcomes by making healthy choices easy choices for all. By refocusing people, places, and policy on the factors that most influence well-being, Blue Zones Project has equipped more than 50 communities around North America with the tools to develop resilient, healthy, happy and long lives.

Throughout the pandemic, each Blue Zones Project community banded together to support one another and make available resources that would mitigate common challenges.

Three communities in particular stood out for their efforts.

Monterey County, Calif.

During the early stages of the pandemic, Blue Zones Project Monterey County, a partnership between Sharecare, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHS), Taylor Farms, and Montage Health, worked with SVMHS and the Alliance on Aging to identify and address cases of food insecurity. The team reached out to more than 400 residents of a local affordable housing development for seniors and asked them a series of questions related to isolation and access to food and medication. Those in need were connected to support resources and given the opportunity to receive a regular check-up call free of charge from the SVMHS Telecare program.

Following up on their early success, the Blue Zones Project team later supported efforts to ensure children in another affordable housing development had access to food. The local school served as the usual distribution point for students in need but was too far to walk. The local team worked with the school to coordinate delivery of the meals to students in their community.

Corry, Penn.

While concerns had been raised in the past that not all students in the Corry Area School District had equal access to the internet at home, the pandemic added new urgency to the problem. The lack of service areas within this northwestern Pennsylvania school district prevented a full 40 percent of the student body from accessing the internet, making distance learning virtually impossible.

The lack of internet access also impeded other essential activities in Corry, such as remote working from home; access to virtual health care providers and services; and maintaining social connections while in isolation, such as staying in touch with family and friends and taking part in virtual Blue Zones Project engagement activities designed to support well-being. 

The Blue Zones Project team leveraged its relationship with the county government to address this gap by helping local community development nonprofit Impact Corry to secure $750,000 in federal CARES Act funding, permitting the community to create a publicly accessible wi-fi hot spot in downtown Corry and allowing for the purchase of 47 miles of fiber optic internet cable to be installed throughout the county.

Fort Worth, Texas

With most Fort Worth students transitioning to distance learning, the normal “back-to-school” routine was anything but routine in 2020. What didn’t change, however, was the need for school supplies. In fact, that need was greater than ever in 2020 due to the economic impact COVID-19 had on many families and schools.

Instead of its traditional employee school supply drive, Fidelity Investments – whose local office was designated a Blue Zones Project Approved™ worksite after it successfully adopted the project’s key tenets, or Power 9 — provided a grant that allowed for the distribution of 3,000 backpacks filled with an assortment of pencil pouches, folders, glue, erasers, and other school materials — 10,000 items in all. Blue Zones Project Fort Worth acquired the supplies and coordinated their distribution to underserved campuses via drive-thru events across the community. A collaboration with Kroger grocery stores helped place 500 additional school supply packs with students at five area elementary schools.

In addition to the grant, Blue Zones Project Forth Worth and its local partners donated 2,000 items for use in the classroom, including innovative school supply “cakes” of tissue, markers, sanitizer and other classroom items creatively bunded in towering cake-like layers. The team also provided supplies and activities to area community centers.

While the pandemic has tested us all, community efforts have demonstrated people’s care and compassion for one another. In every town, neighbors have stepped up to lend a helping hand to those who need it. In the remaining stages of the pandemic, let’s all commit to doing our part to build back stronger, more resilient communities. To learn more about Blue Zones Project by Sharecare and how it transforms health outcomes at the community level, visit Blue Zones Project online.