The Blue Zones Project is a “health and well-being initiative” that is trying to make communities all around the country a healthier place to live, work, learn and play.

“Our main goal is to make the healthy choice the easy choice. We don’t want to force anyone,” said John Dimof, the Organizational Lead for Umpqua Blue Zones.

The Blue Zones Project started with Dan Buettner, a New York Times bestselling author. He wrote an article in the New York Times about the research he conducted from places around the world where people are living much longer than anyone in the United States and decided to try putting his research to use. In 2009, Buettner selected Albert Lea, Minnesota as the first Blue Zone in the United States. With the help of AARP and the United Health Foundation, who contributed with $750,000, and many dedicated people the Blue Zones Project was born.

There are five areas Buettner found that people live generally healthier lives. These places are Ikaria, Greece, Okinawa, Japan, Sardinia, Italy, Seventh-day Adventists from Loma Linda, California and Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica. The people in these areas get to the age 100 ten times more than Americans due to their behavioral patterns. These patterns are very similar in all five areas. They are known to Blue Zones as the Power 9. The Power 9 include:

  • Move Naturally: finding ways to incorporate more movement into your daily life
  • Purpose: having a purpose in your life can add up to seven years to your life
  • Down Shift: relieving stress from everyday life
  • 80% Rule: stop eating when you’re 80% full
  • Plant Slant: making sure most of your meal is fruit or vegetable based
  • Wine @ Five: getting together with a good group of friends and enjoying a drink
  • Family First: spending time with your family and staying connected with them
  • Belong: having a faith-based community and attending services or groups regularly
  • Right Tribe: Having a positive and supportive group of people to spend your time with

Juliete Palenshus, the engagement lead for the Umpqua Blue Zones Project, said Plant Slant is her favorite but she is very good at Move Naturally, Purpose and Family First as well. Jessica Moore, the computer program manager for the Umpqua Blue Zones Project said her favorite is Right Tribe. Dimof said his favorite Power 9 is Purpose. Kirk Blaine, the project manager for the Blue Zones Project, said his favorite is Move Naturally.

The Blue Zones Project has come here due to the growing obesity rates in the Douglas County area. According to a Food Environment Discovery Report done by Blue Zones 31% of adults in Douglas County were obese in 2013 and 28.1% of 8th graders in Douglas County were obese in 2015.

To be able to have our community become part of the Blue Zones Project, we had to apply for it along with eight other communities. Out of all nine communities, including Douglas County, three were selected for the Blue Zones Project. Those three communities were Umpqua with focus on the Roseburg area, Grants Pass and The Dalles.

“I would like to see our health ranking improve. I want to see us break out of that pattern of suffering from chronic illness, overweight, and obesity,” said Palenshus.

Once the Umpqua community was selected for the Blue Zones Project, they decided to hire local people. They wanted the employees to know the area well and be motivated to make the change to a better lifestyle for the whole community.

Umpqua Blue Zones is having a kickoff event on Dec. 11, 2017 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. It is a public event and will take place in the Jacoby Auditorium at UCC. At this event, there will be family-friendly entertainment, cooking demonstrations, yoga, and even free giveaways. RSVP at

“We would love to have the whole student body at the kickoff, we’re proud to have it at UCC. We want to make the campus a vibrant and healthy place for students,” said Moore.


To learn more about the Blue Zones Project, go to

Umpqua Blue Zones Facebook page: